International Women’s Day is Thursday, March 8th and it is celebrated by people all over the world. It is a day with a global focus on equality and celebration. The history of this day dates back to the early 1900’s when women in New York City protested against long hours, low wages, and fought for the right to vote. In March 2011, President Barack Obama declared the month of March to be “Women’s History Month” so this day is part of a larger, month-long celebration of women.
Movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have brought conversations about sexual harassment and violence into the daily news cycle and into our dinner conversations. These are more than tweets, these are real-life events to a lot of women and because of these movements, so many more people, mostly women, have a voice this year. We are proud to recognize the societal energy and momentum towards women’s issues on a national scale.
Locally in Ohio, we are taking on issues that have a profound effect on all women. In February, along with our allies, we filed a lawsuit challenging an unconstitutional abortion ban. We will continue to stand at the forefront of defending women against attacks on their basic constitutional rights. However, on this International Women’s Day, we must not overlook women in the criminal justice system. The ACLU of Ohio recognizes that wealth-based detention has nothing to do with safety. Bail reform in Ohio and across the country has a resounding effect on women. According to a report by the Prison Policy Initiative and the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, women are a fast growing demographic of the prison population, and of the women behind bars, many are mothers. Also, sixty percent of women in jail have not been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial. When women get out of prison, they can be impacted by collateral sanctions, which are civil penalties that further prohibit their successful re-entry into their communities. It can be very difficult for these women to obtain housing, employment, or educational opportunities. More information about our collateral sanctions work will be published in April for National Reentry Month; stay tuned. Criminal Activity Nuisance Ordinances, which can be defined as laws that regulate activities that occur on or near residential properties by occupants and their guests, can be seen to have a gendered impact. Many of these people are woman and victims of domestic violence. We released this report with Cleveland State University which further outlines our stance that these nuisance ordinances do not provide citizens their constitutional right to due process.
Gender is a protected class on paper, but we know that not all women receive equal treatment and equal rights under the law in practice, especially low-income women and women of color. I am proud to stand with an organization that is working towards finding better solutions for all Ohio women.
Today we celebrate International Women’s Day and we recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of ALL women; but this is something we should do each and every day. Let’s not wait until March 8, 2019 to bring women’s issues and women’s rights to the forefront of our daily action.