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International Women’s Day marked by vibrant demonstrations across the world

World News | Published:

Spain’s females went on strike while many of the marches focused attention on domestic violence.

Women shout slogans during a protest at the Sol square during the International Women’s Day in Madrid (Francisco Seco/AP)

Women across Europe and Asia shouted their demands for equality, respect and empowerment to mark International Women’s Day, with protesters in Spain launching a 24-hour strike.

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 centre were pushed back by riot police.

Bosnia International Woman’s day
A group of women smell red flowers as they celebrate International Woman’s Day in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Amel Emric/AP)

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.

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Medical personnel stand outside La Princesa hospital during a protest in Madrid (Francisco Seco/AP)
Medical personnel stand outside La Princesa hospital during a protest in Madrid (Francisco Seco/AP)

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

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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% less that women in France are paid, on average.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said he vowed to name and shame companies that do not respect the law on gender equality.

Across Asia, women came out to mark the day.

Women hold posters of famous feminists in Paris, France (Michel Euler/AP)
Women hold posters of famous feminists in Paris, France (Michel Euler/AP)

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 honour killings.

A Pakistani acid attack victim, centre, takes part in a rally to mark International Women’s Day in Karachi, Pakistan (Fareed Khan/AP)
A Pakistani acid attack victim, centre, takes part in a rally to mark International Women’s Day in Karachi, Pakistan (Fareed Khan/AP)

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 Mr Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

Human rights groups have condemned Mr Duterte’s sexist remarks.

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 stigmatised or thrown out of their homes.

“If you want to fight, why don’t you look for a fellow man and fight?” Mr Museveni said, calling domestic abusers cowards.

On the other hand, it noted that “the path to full equality in practice is still a long one”.

“The issue of gender equality is high on the agenda,” Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s first vice-president, said, “but progress is still slow on the ground.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel, considered by many to be one of the world’s most powerful women, echoed those sentiments, saying in a video message the struggle for greater equality in Germany and worldwide must continue.

She said “many women before us have made sacrifices and fought persistently so that women would have more rights … but there’s still a lot to do”.

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