Erika Says

What I’m Fighting For This International Women’s Day

What I’m Fighting For This International Women’s Day

Erika Lust | March 05, 2020 | 7 min. read

As I’m sure you’re all aware, 8th March is International Women’s Day, and as a director of porn for women and a woman myself, this day is especially important to me. This year marks the 109th year of the occasion, which was first celebrated by the Suffragettes of the early 1900s. They started the day to bring attention to the importance of gender equality all over the world.

109 years later and this year’s theme is ‘Each for Equal’, which presents the perfect time to think about the biases that need to be overcome to forge a gender equal world and true equality for all women. Despite all of the progress we have made, we still have a long way to go. And as someone who works with sex every day, naturally I often think about how far we still have to go when it comes to sex and women’s bodies.

Here are some of the things that I will be protesting for this International Women’s Day ✊

Period Poverty

It’s claimed that on average, people with periods spend $6,360 on their periods over their lifetime and more than half of them have to budget just to afford the products they need. That’s a lot of money on something that we have no control over. It means that young girls in low-income families are regularly missing school because they can’t afford sanitary products.

This is completely inexcusable. Governments should be mandating free menstrual products for everyone; sanitary products should be stocked for free in all schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, and community centres.

Period poverty is a stark reminder to all of us that the so called “pink tax” is still prevalent, meaning that necessities such as sanitary products, contraception and toiletries are more expensive for women, despite the fact that as a gender we are being paid less.

If you want to do something to help check out Bloody Good Period, a UK organisation which is working to end global period poverty for asylum seekers, refugees and those who can’t afford sanitary products.

Image courtesy of Bloody Good Period

Abortion Rights

It’s upsetting that we are still fighting for this, but all women should have access to safe & compassionate abortion services, regardless of where they live. There are still 26 countries where abortion is completely banned with no exceptions, and it is prohibited in a further 37 countries unless it is deemed necessary to save a woman’s life. This means that among the world’s 1.64 billion women of reproductive age, fewer than 37% live in countries where abortion is permitted in all circumstances, and 6% live in countries where it is banned completely.

There are too many countries where women are unable to access abortion care, or feel judged if they do. Getting an abortion should be straightforward, but it’s not. The inaccessibility of abortion disproportionately affects young people, low-income women, and POC globally.

The best way you can help is by donating to abortion funds – organisations that help people pay for and access abortion care when they don’t have the financial means to pay for it on their own. This can cover procedure costs, transportation, accommodation, time off from work, childcare, and other financial barriers people who need abortions may experience.

Check out the US charity URGE which works in communities to help protect clinic safety and raise money for abortion funds. You can also donate to big organisations like Planned Parenthood which will allow them to keep providing free or affordable reproductive health care and abortions to people in the US.

Image courtesy of URGE

Sex Workers Rights

As someone who works with sex workers, I see the hardships they have to face every single day. I think International Women’s Day is a particularly potent time to look at sex workers rights as they are often excluded from this day and other women-centric discussions, yet they face their own gendered stigmas and biases.

I would like to ask for each of us to use International Women’s Day to support sex workers rights and full decriminalisation of the industry as we take to the street in protest this year. All sex workers should have the right to join a union and organise. To protect their safety they must have basic workers rights, no threat of criminal sanctions, and a general safety net to prevent exploitation.

Please check out The Red Umbrella Fund which is the first global fund guided by and for sex workers, supporting the notion that sex workers themselves are the ones best positioned to know what is needed for them.

Image courtesy of Red Umbrella Fund

Female Genital Cutting

Despite being recognised as a human rights violation, some 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone Female Genital Cutting (also known as Female Genital Mutilation) and it’s estimated that a further 68 million girls will be at risk over the next 10 years. Viewed in some cultures as a “rite of passage”, FGC can result in serious health complications including infection, haemorrhage, complications during childbirth, psychological effects and even death.

The reasons for the practice are rooted in gender inequality, whether it’s to control women’s sexuality or because female genitalia is deemed dirty and ugly. Whatever the reason, FGC violates the human rights of women and girls, and deprives them of the opportunity to make decisions about their own bodies and lives.

We must work to live in a world where every girl and woman is safe and free from FGC. However, funding is almost non-existent and efforts to end FGC are led from the grassroots, usually from survivors. If you would like to put an end to this awful procedure please check out Safe Hands For Girls, an organisation raising money to help end FGC, as well as child marriage and other forms of violence against women and girls.

Plus, if you’d like to read more about FGC you can also check out the piece by guest writer Mariya Taher on sex after female genital cutting on the blog.

Image courtesy of Safe Hands for Girls

Sexual Violence Against Women

Rape and sexual violence are global public health and human rights issues. Approximately 15 million girls ages 15-19 have experienced forced sex and approximately 35% of women have experienced some type of physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Across the globe, 137 women are killed by a partner of family member every day. These numbers are not normal and they can not continue.

Gender based violence on such a scale as this is a product of consistent global gender inequality that devalues women and their experiences. This is embedded in everything from societies and political systems to economies and hierarchies in countries all around the world. This is a battle that we absolutely need men to join us in by raising awareness, influencing change and providing resources to make change happen. Check out the White Ribbon organisation which is a coalition of men and boys against violence against women. You can also donate to The Survivors Trust who provide specialist services to survivors of sexual violence and abuse.

Image courtesy of The Survivors Trust

So this year I want to call upon everyone, regardless of your gender, to celebrate the women around you and to push for a gender equal world. It’s up to us to individually challenge stereotypes, fight biases, celebrate women’s achievements and do what we can to make a positive difference for all women everywhere.

Happy International Women’s Day to all of us.

Erika Lust is an award-winning filmmaker, producer, and writer who's focus on female pleasure, cinematic values, and ethics in adult cinema have helped to change how pornography is consumed. Erika Lust Films was born in 2004 and since then Erika has ... Read More
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