Call it ‘commando stripping’ if you like; that is how radical feminist protest group Femen grabs attention. This week bare-breasted in Brussels, at the Islamic Cultural Centre the women called for the release of a young Tunisian.
Amina’s ‘offence’ was disrupting ultra-conservative Muslims. She upset a lot with online photos showing “my body is my own” written on it.
One of the movement’s founders issued a warning from home base in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
Oleksandra Shevchenko told our correspondent there: “Our main target today is the Middle East. Our first action in the Islamic republics yesterday was set up by two French activists and a German. They were defending our fellow activist. She’s been in prison for two weeks. I think that Amina could become the trigger of a women’s Arab Spring.”
So, countries where Islamic traditionalist law imposes on women have been added to the Femen field of operations. But even in London, during the Olympic Games they protested against the organising Committee’s decision to allow women to compete wearing a head covering, which goes against the Olympic Charter.
Femen gate crashes political media events with high adrenaline vulnerability.
In the Vatican, their message ‘In gay we trust’ was, as is their habit, written on their bare bodies, to slam the Catholic position on gay marriage.
Femen denounces religious institutions which it considers misogynist, patriarchal or gender discriminatory.
The Russian Orthodox Church is also a frequent target, therefore. Partriarch Kirill’s bodyguards got a hands-on, body-slam experience when he visited Kiev in 2012.
The women of Femen dare challenge the most powerful politicians; they screamed into Moscow last year to denounce the re-election of their bete noire President Vladimir Putin as fraudulent.
They shouted “Putin dictator!”
He was with democratically elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hanover when Femen upstaged them while, at the top of their lungs, blasting restrictions on NGOs in trade partner Russia.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been nicknamed by critics as Europe’s last dictator, is no friend of Femen. His proxy was mocked when he went to watch a football match in Ukraine.
In Italy, they have protested against former prime minister and business billionaire Silvio Berlusconi’s longevity on the country’s political scene.
Along the way, the movement picks up new adherents who are also determined to jolt sedentary citizens out of political complacency.
Oleksandra Shevchenko told euronews: “We don’t hand out pamphlets in the street. We work through social networks and the media. Women write to us spontaneously. They find us, follow us online, through our Facebook page, and support us or join us like that.”
Femen was formed in 2008 by three students in Ukraine, to condemn sex tourism. They deplore what they call ‘sextremism’. They say their aims include developing leadership, intellectual and moral qualities among women.
The activists are regularly detained and fined, and have said some were abducted and abused by Belarus police, while others have reported death threats.
As early as 2009 Femen proposed making the use of sex industry services a criminal offence.