PES Women: democratic, female leadership in Belarus can no longer be silenced

PES Women: democratic, female leadership in Belarus can no longer be silenced

The opposition movement against the contested president Lukashenko is led by women, notably Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo – who have fled the country in fear of their safety – and Maria Kolesnikova, who has been abducted, jailed and charged with ‘undermining national security’, facing up to 5 years in prison.

Thousands of women, peacefully marching dressed in white, carrying flowers and forming chains of solidarity, are on the frontlines of the campaign for democracy and fair elections. After over a month of raising their voices for justice, they are not backing down despite being violently detained and attacked.

The two activists present at the meeting called on international feminist allies to do everything possible to support the women protesters. They said Belarusian women – who traditionally held an invisible role in politics – are now taking to the streets as independent actors. Alongside the general march, 10,000 women have attended women’s rights focused marches with their families. The regime is now targeting them, threatening to imprison them and take away their children.

PES Women President Zita Gurmai said:

“PES Women stands in solidarity with the women of Belarus and their peaceful fight for democracy. We condemn the oppression, violence and misogyny they are facing, and we call for independent investigations and immediate sanctions against the authorities responsible.

“Gender equality is a fundamental democratic value. Women must be safely included in the political discussions and democratic transition, including through the Coordination Council. Women are demanding structural and sustainable change. This must be reflected in the EU’s targeted support – organisations working towards gender equality must receive their fair share.

“The upcoming Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in External Relations (GAP III 2021- 2025) must acknowledge, foster and involve women’s pivotal role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. EU Missions in peace and security must also step up to include more women, who are currently highly underrepresented.”

The PES Women Executive expressed its support for the peaceful protests and noted that the disgraceful treatment they face is typical of the misogyny women in politics and society face around the world. The Executive committed to continuing its dialogue with Belarusian democracy activists and pledged to support the country’s women’s movement.

PES Women welcomes the European Parliament resolution, backed by S&D MEPs, that rejects Lukashenko as President and calls for EU sanctions. Earlier this week the PES launched a campaign – We hear you Belarus to show support for the protesters ahead of the vote.

PES Women also backs the decision of the S&D to nominate the brave women of Belarus for the 2020 Sakharov Prize. This not only sends a strong message of support to the Belarusian people, it is a clear signal to women around the globe that their voices must never be silenced.