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Women strike, protest as the world marks Int'l Women's Day

AP  |  Madrid 

Women across Europe and Asia shouted their demands for equality, respect and empowerment today to mark International Women's Day, with protesters in Spain launching a 24-hour strike and crowds of demonstrators filling the streets of Manila, Seoul and New Delhi.

Spanish women were staging dozens of protests across the country against the wage gap and gender violence. In Barcelona, protesters disrupting traffic into the city center were pushed back by riot police.

In Madrid, hundreds of women gathered in its central square to demand change. Teresa Sonsur, a 38-year-old social services agency worker, said she wanted to end workplace discrimination.

"What we see in our job in social services is that the women are doing all the hard work, dealing with the customers, but in the positions of management it is always men," she said.

In some countries, protests were more muted. International Women's Day is a public holiday in Russia, but opposition presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak was one of the few demonstrators in Moscow.

In a protest reminiscent of the #MeToo movement, which aims to hold those involved in sexual misconduct, and those who cover it up, accountable, Sobchak staged a solo picket outside the lower house of the Russian parliament to demand the resignation of a prominent lawmaker whom several female journalists accuse of sexual harassment.

On a lighter note, a leading French newspaper found a witty way of making its point about discrimination and the gender pay gap by upping its price for men. The left-leaning daily Liberation said that for one day only, men would pay 50 euro cents more than women, in a reflection of the 25 percent less that women in France are paid, on average.

French President Emmanuel Macron said vowed to name and shame companies that don't respect the law on gender equality.

Across Asia, women came out to mark the day. In China, students at Tsinghua University used the day to make light of a proposed constitutional amendment to scrap term limits for the country's president. One banner joked that a boyfriend's term should also have no limits, while another said, "A country cannot exist without a constitution, as we cannot exist without you!" But photos of the students' banners, like other content about the proposed amendment, were quickly censored on social media.

At rallies in the Pakistan capital Islamabad, its largest city Karachi, and the cultural capital of Lahore, women denounced violence against them in Pakistan, where nearly 1,000 women are killed by close relatives each year in so-called honor killings. Pakistani women have largely been deprived of their rights since the country gained independence in 1947.

Hundreds of activists in pink and purple shirts protested in downtown Manila against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, calling him among the worst violators of women's rights in Asia. Protest leaders sang and danced in a boisterous rally in Plaza Miranda, handing red and white roses to mothers, sisters and widows of drug suspects slain under Duterte's crackdown on illegal drugs.

Human rights groups have condemned Duterte's sexist remarks, including one in which he asked troops to shoot female communist rebels in the genitals.

In Afghanistan, hundreds of women, who would have been afraid to leave their homes during Taliban rule, gathered in the capital to commemorate the day.

Hundreds of South Koreans, many wearing black and holding black #MeToo signs, rallied in central Seoul. South Korea's #MeToo movement has gained significant traction since January, when a female prosecutor began speaking openly about workplace mistreatment and sexual misconduct.

Several high-profile South Korean men have resigned from positions of power, including a governor who was a leading presidential contender before he was accused of repeatedly raping his female secretary.

In India, hundreds of women, including students, teachers and sex workers, marched through the capital to bring attention to domestic violence, sexual attacks and discrimination in jobs and wages.

"Unite against violence against women," one placard urged. "Man enough to say no to domestic abuse," said another. "My body, My choice." India had its first female leader in 1966 when Indira Gandhi became prime minister, but Indian women are still often relegated to second-class citizenship.

In Africa, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged men to stop physically abusing their wives. Domestic violence is common in Uganda, although victims rarely report perpetrators to the police for fear of being stigmatized or thrown out of their homes.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 09 2018. 00:20 IST
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