Moscow, Russia | AFP | Protesters took to the streets in cities around the world Wednesday, marking International Women’s Day with strikes and marches demanding equal rights.
In Moscow, a group of feminist activists was briefly detained after protesting inside the tightly guarded Kremlin with banners for an end to patriarchy, local media reported.
“Feminism is our national idea,” read a banner carried by two protesters standing on a balcony of one of the Kremlin towers.
March 8 is a public holiday in Russia but is mainly celebrated by giving flowers and chocolates to women rather than stressing the need for gender equality.
In Kiev too, around a thousand people marched calling for a return to the original feminist meaning of a holiday now largely associated with flowers and gifts.
“I came to the march just to revive the original meaning of March 8,” said Alina Zabruyko, a 22-year-old student.
“From the beginning it was a day for women’s rights, not a day for flowers.”
– ‘Don’t Keep Calm, Resist’ –
In Warsaw, thousands of men and women gathered at Constitution Square, carrying signs that read, “Don’t keep calm. Resist”, “Girl power” and “Abortion is a woman’s right”.
In the United States, hundreds of protesters — mostly women wearing red T-shirts and jumpers — rallied at a park outside the White House to protest President Donald Trump’s policies on women.
Many of the demonstrators carried signs condemning the reintroduction of a global “gag order” which prevents foreign charities from using US government funds to provide abortion services, information, counselling or referrals.
“Donald Trump has got to go!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” protesters chanted.
A nationwide call to strike on Women’s Day, under the banner “A Day Without Women”, led all schools to shut in the town of Alexandria, Virginia, with many teachers there joining the action.
Trump, whose presidential campaign was nearly derailed by sexual harassment charges and his boasts about groping women, tweeted about his “tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.”
His tweets however triggered angry responses, with social media users accusing him of sexual assault and criticising his campaign’s support for pro-life groups.
– ‘Right to choose their path’ –
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meanwhile vigorously defended women’s access to abortion services, saying Wednesday that they have a right to “choose their path, their future.”
In Latin America, demonstrations against misogynistic violence were planned later Wednesday in several countries including Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay.
The UN says the region accounts for half of the 25 countries in the world with the highest numbers of misogynistic murders.
In Brazil, Rio de Janeiro’s main airport marked the day by temporarily changing its name in honour of a prominent activist against domestic violence, Maria da Penha.
Brazilian airline GOL said it would run flights on the day with entirely female crews.
In Melbourne, pedestrian traffic lights showing female figures rather than male were installed to reduce “unconscious bias” and promote gender equality.
In Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, acid attack survivors strutted down the catwalk of a fashion show Tuesday, in an effort to stamp out prejudice against victims of these brutal assaults.
In Paris, a group of activists demanded that this year’s Women’s Day be dedicated to celebrated Turkish novelist Asli Erdogan — who has no relation to the president.
The author, who is banned from leaving Turkey, was released from jail in December after 132 days of pre-trial detention but could still face life imprisonment.