Violence Against Women as a strategic weapon in a time of class war in Greece

We already knew that violence against women is often used as a weapon in times of war to punish, humiliate and dehumanize, but especially to repress and annihilate by all possible means the population to which they belong. This violence has often been seen as a means of domination rather than as a tool of destruction.

In the period of deep crisis shaking Greece, violence against women is becoming a weapon in the hands of the rulers. Such violence has been increasingly widespread in Greece. Here are four emblematic cases.

The most recent case occurred at the beginning of November 2013 when Greek police special forces (MAT) tried to prevent two Members of Parliament from entering the building of ERT, the public radio and television station, which had been occupied by the police. Police pushed opposition MPs Zoe Konstandopoulou of Syriza and Rachel Makris of the Independent Greeks party against the entrance gates and roughly handled them. Zoe Konstandopoulou, who nearly died from asphyxiation, is now taking legal action against her agressors for attempted murder. The two MPs were simply trying to exercise their constitutional right to enter the ERT building to prevent the police destroying equipment to frame the workers who had been fighting for the station to remain in public hands.

The morning following the incident at the ERT building, the pro-government daily newspaper TA-NEA, launched a campaign against the two MPs, publishing a cartoon on its front page showing them as strippers pole-dancing in front of a male audience. The caption, a conversation of a male client in the audience, to the cartoon read, “Rachel is on the right and Zoe on the left. Do they do anything else? I heard that they are taking legal action. But we should ask the waiter”.

The second case involved a television campaign against HIV-positive, some of whom are sex workers. In the middle of the election campaign, two social-democratic ministers, notorious for their role in repressing demonstrations against the Troika and in the destruction of the health service, called publicly for the arrest of those who, according to these ministers, “constituted a heath time-bomb”, “are polluting society with their contagious diseases” and are killing, with the AIDS virus, “Greek family fathers”.

The third case involved dozens of women, including some grandmothers, in Skouries in the north of Greece. These women were opposing the Canadian company Eldorado and its gold mining project. For months, special police forces under instructions of the minister have been targeting the women of the villages with a ferocious and massive repression. Some have been sent to prison. This unprecedented repression, carried out in the background of a state of emergency in a region inhabited by peasants, is exemplary, according to those who gave the orders to prevent the repetition of such acts of “civil disobedience”. As always, “exemplary repression” targeted women first and foremost.

Finally, Kassidiaris, an MP from the neo-nazi Golden Dawn, struck two female MPs on the face, while live on television during the election campaign last spring. Instead of rousing indignation and reprobation, this act of violence led to a wave of popular sympathy and contributed to the electoral success of Golden Dawn.

What is going on?

This violence against women reminds us of that committed during wars of ethnic cleansing. The rape of women by enemy forces should not be explained as the result of some “uncontrollable” male impulse but as that of a strategy of war during which women represent symbolically and biologically the integrity of the ethnic group or nation, which must be destroyed. In Greece today, we are not faced with nationalist violence pursuing ethnic cleansing. We face a different type of conflict, another sort of war, a class war.

Humiliate women MPs by comparing them to strippers sends the message that politics is first and foremost the exclusive domain of men. In that world, women are to be always available for sex and to be the property of men.

The public denunciation of HIV-positive women criminalizes and demonizes their sexuality and presents them as a “menace” to law and order, which must reign in our society. This “menace” has been denounced for the last two centuries as coming from the “dangerous” classes.

To make misogyny a weapon of war in the hands of the ruling elites comes as no surprise. The Troika aims to turn the clock back to the worst moments of the savage and barbaric capitalism of the 19th century. The Troika yearns for the time when women had no rights.

We are witnessing a frontal assault, a war of historic proportions, against the immense majority of citizens (the waged, poor, unemployed, pensioners, youth, the “different”, the immigrants and minorities). The transformation of violence against women into a weapon increasingly used by the ruling powers is an integral part of that war. Just like in the case of mass rape in nationalist/ethnic wars, violence against women used by the ruling class in a time of class war has the same objectives: to break the morale and social fabric, to force not just women but all victims, including men, into submission and acceptance of their inhuman neoliberal policies.

(This first appeared in a different form here:

About Sonia Mitralia

Sonia Mitralia is a Greek feminist organizer and activist, and member of Greek Women against the Debt and the Austerity Measures, as well as of the Greek Committee against the Debt.