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Swiss women strike and burn bras in protest against sexism

Swiss women strike and burn bras in protest against sexism

Thousands of women across Switzerland walked off the job, burned bras and blocked traffic in a day of demonstrations to demand fairer pay, more equality and an end to sexual harassment and violence.

The nation-wide women’s strike for wage parity outside the federal palace in Switzerland. Photo: AFP

It was the first such protest in the Alpine nation in 28 years.

Discontent over sexism and workplace inequality in prosperous Switzerland underpinned the women’s strike.

Many protesters were also demanding more pay specifically for domestic workers, teachers and caregivers – jobs typically held by women.

Swiss female politicians – mostly decked out in purple, the movement’s colour – streamed out of Parliament in the capital of Bern, where several thousand women were demonstrating, public broadcaster RTS reported.

Hundreds of marchers also blocked roads near the main train station in Zurich, the country’s financial centre.

Demonstrators in Geneva’s Parc Bertrand hoisted a banner showing that only 8 percent of jobs in engineering were held by women in Switzerland, in contrast to 91 per cent of the country’s domestic help jobs.

The Swiss Federal Statistics office said women on average earned 12 percent less than men for similar work.

In the late afternoon in Geneva, thousands spread out on the city’s landmark Plainpalais square in a sea of purple, chanting, waving flags and holding up signs like one that read: “Don’t touch my uterus.”

Earlier in Lausanne, hundreds of women rallied at the city’s cathedral and marched downtown to set wooden pallets on fire, throwing items like neckties and bras into the inferno.

A few women scaled the cathedral to shout out the hour, a Swiss tradition rarely carried out by women.

A woman holds up a placard depicting a uterus as she takes part in a nation-wide women's strike for wage parity, on June 14, 2019 in Geneva.

A woman holds up a placard depicting a uterus as she takes part in a nation-wide women’s strike for wage parity, on June 14, 2019 in Geneva. Photo: AFP

In Lucerne, hundreds of women staged a sit-down protest in front of the city’s theatre, according to the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, and some of the paper’s female reporters joined in.

People across the country wore face paint or stickers.

In symbolic gestures large and small, businesses showed their support for the protests.

The Roche Tower in Basel, the north-western city’s highest skyscraper, lit up in the logo of the movement.

Restaurants and stores hung purple balloons and the strikers’ logos.

Swiss women were urged to leave their workplaces at 3:24pm – the time when organisers figured women should stop working to earn proportionally as much as men in a day.

Vanessa Trub, a Geneva pastor, said protesters were also demanding longer paternity leave – now just one day in Switzerland – to get men to help out more with child care.

The International Labour Organisation reported recently that Switzerland is one of the worst nations in Europe and Central Asia when it comes to the post-high school education gap between the sexes, especially in the STEM science fields.

The Swiss statistics office also says of the 249 homicides recorded in the country between 2009 and 2018, 75 percent of the victims were women and girls.

The events evoked the protests of 14 June, 1991, that drew hundreds of thousands of Swiss women out to condemn discrimination.

The date was 20 years after Swiss women won the federal right to vote and a decade after sexual equality became law.

– ABC

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