Before the Czarny protest: feminist activism in Poland

Article


Narkowicz, K. 2018. Before the Czarny protest: feminist activism in Poland. Cultivate: The Feminist Journal of the Centre for Women's Studies.
TypeArticle
TitleBefore the Czarny protest: feminist activism in Poland
AuthorsNarkowicz, K.
Abstract

Abortion in Poland was legal during Communism and became illegal (with a few exceptions) after the political shift to democracy. Since then, feminists have been active in resisting the abortion law but with little success in gaining public support or influencing legislation. This changed in 2016, when hundreds of thousands of Poles across the country took to the streets in what became known as the Czarny Protest, or Black Protest. They opposed a bill that would remove some of the exceptions and impose criminal sanctions on abortion. The scale of the protest meant that the proposal was stalled, even with the newly elected conservative populist government in power. It was a victory for the feminist movement and came as a surprise, especially after a similar proposal in 2011 received almost no public attention and failed to mobilise even within the feminist movement. This paper looks back at the pro-choice movement at that point, before the mass mobilisation in 2016. It draws on interviews and focus groups conducted with pro-choice activists in Poland between 2011 and 2012. It captures a moment when the feminist movement failed to mobilise support for the liberalisation of abortion, because it was predominantly active online rather than on the streets. The paper concludes by posing questions about the success of the mass mobilisation that took place five years later in 2016 and was, in contrast, largely mobilised online. Has there been a shift within the pro-choice feminist movement? Is there a sudden interest in feminist politics among the Polish public? Or was the Czarny Protest rooted in a broader dissatisfaction with the current regime? And lastly, what does that mean for feminist activism in Poland and the wider resistance against right-wing politics?

KeywordsAbortion, Poland, Pro-choice, Czarny Protest, Feminist Activism
LanguageEnglish
PublisherCenter for Women's Studies, University of York
JournalCultivate: The Feminist Journal of the Centre for Women's Studies
Publication dates
Online19 May 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited08 Sep 2020
Accepted01 Apr 2018
Output statusPublished
Web address (URL)https://cultivatefeminism.com/protests-before-the-czarny-protest/
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