Thousands of women across Switzerland on Friday 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. 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 lawmakers — mostly decked out in purple, the movement’s color — streamed out of the Swiss Federal Palace in Bern, where several thousand women were demonstrating, public broadcaster Radio Television Suisse reported.
Hundreds of marchers also blocked roads near the main train station in Zurich, the country’s financial center.
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 percent of the country’s domestic helper jobs.
The Swiss Federal Statistical Office has said that women on average earned 12 percent less than men for similar work — the so-called “gender pay gap” — as of 2016, the latest figures available.
In 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 defiant signs like one that read: “Don’t touch my uterus.”
Earlier in Lausanne, hundreds of women rallied at the city’s cathedral at about midnight on Thursday 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.
In Lucerne, hundreds of women staged a sit-down protest in front of the city’s theater, the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reported, and some of the newspaper’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 northwestern 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 organizers figured women should stop working to earn proportionally as much as men in a day.
Vanessa Trub, a Geneva pastor and vice president of a city association of ministers and deacons, said that protesters were also demanding longer paternity leave — currently just one day in Switzerland — to get men to help out more with childcare.
The International Labour Organization has reported 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 fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Of the 249 homicides recorded in the country from 2009 to last year, 75 percent of the victims were women and girls, office data showed.
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