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WORLD | 08-03-2019 11:39

Strike, protests mark International Women's Day in Spain

International Women's Day was being celebrated around the world on Friday, with marches and other actions expected.

For the second year running, Spanish women went on strike today, kicking off an International Women's Day set to be marked with several protests across the world.

Protests drew attention in cities across the European nation, with high-profile politicians joining the debate. 

"If we stop, the world stops," said one of the main slogans as Spain's largest unions CCOO and UGT organised a two-hour work stoppage – the first starting at midday – while smaller unions called for a 24-hour strike.

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena, prominent journalists, nuns and company employees are among hundreds of women who pledged to take part in a strike that seeks to recreate a two-hour work stoppage that took place on the same day in 2018.

It was as yet unclear how many women were participating.

International Women's Day was being celebrated around the world on Friday, with marches and other actions expected.

Already, thousands of people had protested across the country. In Barcelona, demonstrators blocked a major thoroughfare, some wearing purple wigs -- the colour long associated with gender equality.

Mass protests are planned later in the day in Madrid and Barcelona.

'Feminist Spain'

As snap general elections near on April 28, women's rights has become a major theme of left- and right-wing parties' election campaigns, with all pledging to do their bit for inequalities.

The gender pay gap in Spain stands at 14.2 percent according to the latest EU statistics, two points below the EU average.

And gender violence continues to take its toll on women, with 47 killed by their partners or ex-partners last year and at least 975 dead since 2003, according to government figures.

"I'm on strike for all those who can't go on strike today, for those of us who have had to put up with lots of humiliation and harassment in work and in education," said Marta Horcas, a 30-year-old graphic designer.

Speaking in Lavapies, a district of central Madrid where stickers on posts and shop windows read "We want to be alive, free and equal," Horcas was wearing a green scarf in solidarity with Argentine pro-abortion campaigners who used it as their symbol.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who has made women's rights one of the central themes of his campaign, tweeted that he wanted "a feminist Spain."

"Only with feminism will we end violence against women and achieve real equality," he said.

Even the national police force joined in, announcing Thursday it was working on a "non-sexist language guide for its agents".

Dissenting voices

But there are increasing dissenting voices against what some conservative groups believe has gone too far.

The conservative Popular Party will not take part in the Madrid protest, accusing the left of appropriating feminism to get more votes on April 28 general elections.

Carmen Cibiriain, a 71-year-old retiree in Madrid, criticised that the issue is being used politically.

"When I hear them say that feminism is liberal, or that it's anti-capitalist, it isn't. It's equality," she said.

The far-right has made the fight against what it dubs "radical feminism" a priority.

So much so that the "Women of the World Global Platform," a Spanish initiative that groups together conservative associations from around the world, has called for a counter-protest in Madrid on Sunday.

International Women's Day "has converted into a day for those who reject femininity as well as masculinity, complementarity, maternity and dedication to the family," spokeswoman Leonor Tamayo said in a statement.

An ultra-conservative association has also chartered a bus with the slogan "#StopFeminazis" coupled with a picture of Hitler wearing pink lipstick.

"They're scared, they're terrified because we're right," retorts Carmen Cibiriain.

- AFP

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