KONFRONTASI - Millions of women workers in Spain have taken part in an unprecedented protest march and strike across the country to mark International Women’s Day and oppose wage gaps, domestic violence, and sexual discrimination.
Labor unions in Spain estimated that over five million women participated in the first 24-hour nationwide “feminist strike” on Thursday, which was sponsored by 10 unions and some of Spain’s top female politicians.
Spain’s Workers’ Commissions and the Workers’ General Union announced on Thursday afternoon that 5.3 million people had taken part in two-hour walkouts, describing the move as “an unprecedented strike in [the history of] our country’s trade union movement.”
The leading slogan during the nationwide rallies was “If we stop, the world stops,” under which hundreds of thousands of protesters converged on numerous cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville, and Pamplona.
Protesters in the autonomous Catalonia region blocked a railway line and disrupted traffic in central Barcelona.
Elsewhere, students and demonstrators picketed at universities, and many female journalists decided against showing up for work at newsrooms and studios.
Spain’s minister of health, social services, and equality, Dolors Montserrat, described the historic protest action on Thursday as “a social revolution for men and women,” insisting, however, that it was not “a war between the sexes.”
Thousands of people march down a street in Madrid to mark International Women’s Day, on March 8, 2018. (Photo by AFP)
Montserrat further said that while she was glad to witness so many women exercising their right to protest, it was up to individual women “to decide how they want to strike” or whether they wished to go to work as normal.
The strike was also supported by some of the country’s well-known female politicians, including Madrid’s Mayor Manuela Carmena and Barcelona’s Mayor Ada Colau.
Carmena herself joined a protest rally outside her office on Thursday morning and later tweeted a message saying, “The aim has been achieved. This isn’t only about calling for true equality, but also about facing the need to change how the world treats women. It’s about feminism.”
Colau, who has been the mayor of Barcelona since 2015, said she was joining the strike “to show that without women the world really does stop.”
She further added, “As people in public positions, we have the duty to mobilize on behalf of those who can’t go on strike. This is the century of women and of feminism; we’ve raised our voices and we won’t stop. No more violence, discrimination or pay gap.”
Official statistics reported in the local media indicate that 49 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners in Spain last year, compared with 44 in 2016.
Government statistics also point to rising reports of violent abuse against women. There were 129,193 reports in 2015 and 142,893 in 2016. Complete annual figures for last year were not yet available, but by the end of September 2017, 125,769 reports had already been registered.
Turkish women rally, too
Meanwhile, thousands of women also took part in a protest march in central Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday to demand an end to violence and greater equality with men in the country.
“We won’t shut up, we are not afraid, we won’t obey,” the crowd chanted, waving signs that read, “When women jump, it’s a revolution,” joining worldwide commemorations of International Women’s Day.
Women’s Day has had a chaotic recent past in Turkey, where rallies faced bans for security reasons and attacks by mobs of angry men. This year, governors in a handful of provinces outlawed rallies, citing an emergency rule ban imposed in the wake of the 2016 military coup attempt.
On Sunday, police in the capital of Ankara arrested 15 people and used tear gas to disperse a march by women on Women’s Day.[ptv]