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Women strike in Switzerland for fairer pay and more equality

World News | Published:

Discontent over sexism and workplace inequality is underpinning the industrial action.

Women across Switzerland have gone on strike, 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 strike. Many protesters were also demanding more pay specifically for domestic workers, teachers and caregivers — jobs typically held by women.

Swiss female legislators — 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.

Switzerland Women’s Strike
Women protest in Bern (Alessandro della Valle/Keystone/AP)

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

The Swiss Federal Statistics office says women on average earned 12% less than men for similar work as of 2016, the latest figures available.

Also in Geneva, demonstrators bedecked the statues of four bearded Protestant reformers with purple scarves and put up alternative street names honouring women underneath the official street names, which have been given to men.

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Protesters in Geneva
Protesters in Geneva (Martial Trezzini/Keystone/AP)

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.

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.

The logo is projected on the Roche Tower
The logo is projected on the Roche Tower (Georgios Kefalas/Keystone/AP)

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 science fields.

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

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