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Thousands of women dressed in purple strike in Switzerland over equal pay

Women in Switzerland on average still earn 20% less than men.

Switzerland Women's Strike Women protest during the nationwide women's strike in Lucerne, Switzerland Source: Alexandra Wey via PA Images

THOUSANDS OF WOMEN dressed in purple have taken to the streets in Switzerland in protest over equal pay. 

“I love badass women” and “Eliminate the patriarchy” could be seen among the messages on posters and banners at today’s strikes, as women poured into the streets to vent their frustration with persistent gender discrimination and wage gaps in the wealthy Alpine nation.

The strike today comes exactly 28 years after half a million women walked out of their workplaces or homes across Switzerland to protest persistent inequalities, on 14 June, 1991.

That was 10 years after equality between the sexes was enshrined in the Swiss constitution.

However, the organisers of today’s events have said things have barely improved since then, insisting women need to demand “more time, more money, more respect”.

Women in Switzerland on average still earn 20% less than men. 

Switzerland Women's Strike Female teachers protesting during today's strike Source: Walter Bieri via PA Images

Organisers have called upon women to snub their jobs and housework for the entire day today to help raise awareness of the contribution women make across society.

Swiss Defence Minister Viola Amherd, accompanied by a large group of women MPs dressed in purple, joined the demonstrators briefly as Parliament took a 15-minute break to mark the occasion.

“It’s wonderful! We are here to make noise, because if we’re not seen, we don’t exist,” Socialist MP Ada Marra told the RTS broadcaster in Bern.

Pram marches, whistle concerts and giant picnics have been planned around the country today, with the day’s events set to culminate in giant demonstrations in several cities.

‘Women work for free’

For those women unable to take a full day, the organisers urge them to at least pack their things and leave by 3.24pm.

“After that, women work for free,” said Anne Fritz, the main organiser of the strike and a representative of USS, an umbrella organisation that groups 16 Swiss unions.

Back in 1991, one in seven women in the country took part in the strike. This was a considerable given that work stoppages have been extremely rare in Switzerland since employers and unions signed the Peace at Work convention in 1937.

Switzerland Women's Strike The strike today comes exactly 28 years after half a million women walked out of their workplaces or homes across Switzerland to protest persistent inequalities Source: Alexandra Wey

Since then, women’s rights advocates in Switzerland have made some gains.

Abortion was legalised in 2002, and 2005 saw the introduction of 14 weeks of paid maternity leave.

However, Switzerland still offers no paternity leave, and limited access to expensive daycare is seen as a major difficulty to women’s integration into the labour market.

Christa Binswanger, a gender studies professor at St Gallen University, said she was optimistic that today’s strike would make a difference.

“It has already shown an impact during the last weeks,” prompting wide media coverage of gender issues, she told AFP. “The strike has mobilised a sense of solidarity.”

Includes reporting by © – AFP 2019

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