Feminism and empowering women was on the agenda yesterday in the European Parliament as MEPs discussed feminist self-defence (FSD) with trainers and experts.

“Feminist self-defence is about strengthening girls and women and giving them the tools to strengthen themselves and each other from being subject to sexualized violence. It is also a political tool in the struggle against patriarchy and towards an equal society,” said Swedish MEP Malin Björk.

She continued: “There is an oppression of women, an oppression that has a great impact on our lives, possibilities, choices and ways of thinking and behaving. And this is a form of political oppression. It is not only a matter of personal tragedies and circumstances, it is a fundamental issue of power – who has power over who, and who hasn't.”

Spanish MEP Ángela Vallina said: “We call for 2016 to be the European year on ending violence against women. We also call for policies that prioritise funding for feminist self-defence training.

“FSD is not just about defending ourselves from harassment or sexual-based attacks, but it is also a way to feel alive, it is an expression of enjoying our bodies. FSD training helps people to talk about their experiences. It is certainly not about victimising those who have experienced violence. Neither is it martial arts for women. FSD is about being empowered to say no and to set our own boundaries. It's about looking together for ways to live in safety.”

The event saw discussion on how feminist self-defence can be used as a preventative tool and experts spoke about how feminist self-defence training actually helped to lower instances of violence against women.

Author of the Vagina Monologues Eve Ensler said: “Prevention means doing everything you can do before it happens so that it doesn't happen. Women's bodies are the landscape on which this struggle will be won or lost. The forms of gender-based violence are endless. We must learn how to resist patriarchy, violence, and oppression. Violence thrives on silence. Women have been taught not to struggle or fight back – but we must make noise.”

GUE/NGL Press Contacts:
Emily Macintosh +32 470 85 05 08
Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20
European United Left / Nordic Green Left
European Parliamentary Group

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