Cypriot feminism: An opportunity to challenge gender inequalities and promote women's rights and a different voice
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The 1960s and the 1970s in Western Europe, America, Canada and elsewhere gave rise to women's liberation movements, peace movements and discussions on environmental issues. Feminists started questioning established norms and 'essentialisation' of women and menthey demanded changes in gender roles, the elimination of the separation of private and public spacesquestioned patriarchy and sexism, classism and racism as conditions leading to discrimination. In the 1980s and the 1990s to this day the feminist discussion has moved to issues of gender in international politics, sexualities (queer studies) post colonialism and post modernist questions about multiple subjectivities and women's experiences in conflict societies, third world feminisms, and trafficking of women in a global neo-liberal economy. In 1960 Cyprus was semi-decolonised (still 99 square miles are sovereign British territory) and gained a 'qualified' independence and its people - Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Maronites and Latins - had to adapt to a new nationality, the Cypriot (as opposed to being British subjects) and to new ways of relating. The women of Cyprus did not participate in the global women's movements of the 1960s onwards but instead experienced ethnic nationalism, militarism and sexism both prior and after independence. Cypriot women had to deal with the consequences of the armed struggle in the mid-1950s despite the fact that they were excluded from the centres where these decisions were taken or when the independence agreement was signed. Half a century later women of Cyprus have moved ahead especially in the education and employment sectors though they are still struggling to raise their voices on social and 'national issues'. In this paper we argue, among other things, that both patriarchy and the 'national problem', i.e. the Cyprus conflict, have dominated public debates and that one sustains the other to such an extent that social issues including women's issues and needs have been marginalised. The majority of Cypriot women's organisations have traditionally been part of the mainstream male-dominated political parties and did not have the opportunity to develop a different women's voice on women's rights. No independent feminist movement has been established, but now at the beginning of the twenty first century some attempts promote such a need. Women today are more empowered to challenge patriarchal structures, and draw connections between Cypriot women's oppression and nationalism, militarism and sexism which kept certain agendas marginalised while making others visible.