Women take part in a rally on International Women's Day in downtown Barcelona, northeastern Spain.
Women take part in a rally on International Women's Day in downtown Barcelona, northeastern Spain. ENRIC FONTCUBERTA

Feminist strike seeks fairer deal

WOMEN in Spain marked International Women's Day by deserting paid and unpaid labour to take part in the country's first nationwide "feminist strike”.

The 24-hour walkout, aimed at drawing attention to domestic violence, sexual discrimination and the gender pay gap, substantially disrupted the country's train network.

The transport ministry cancelled 300 trains.

The strike called by 10 unions began with a pot-banging demonstration in Madrid public square Puerto del Sol at midnight.

Activists marched to call for an end to gender violence, the nation's "macho” culture and gender disparities in salaries.

Feminist groups called for women to abandon their domestic chores for the day and not spend any money, in an attempt to show how integral women were to the economy.

The walkout had the backing of some of Spain's highest-profile female politicians, including Madrid and Barcelona's mayors.

But the protests have also been the subject of heated debate in the country in recent weeks.

The ruling centre-right party, the Partido Popular, claimed the action was "for feminist elites and not real women with everyday problems”.

Spanish actor Penelope Cruz showed solidarity with the protests by cancelling public events she had planned and also going on "domestic” strike, leaving her partner Javier Bardem to care for their two children.

Holly Hosie, a 22-year-old Briton who teaches in Spain, said she was joining in.

"Today, along with the majority of the other female teachers at my school, I'm taking part in the 'huelga feminista' (feminist strike), in support of gender inequality, discrimination, oppression, domestic abuse, sexual assault and the gender pay gap,” she told The Independent.

Ms Hosie, who said she would attend a march at 7pm in Madrid, said she thought the chief purpose of the strikes was to highlight gender inequalities.

"I think the main impact the strikes will have is raising awareness of the issues and inequalities women still face. And in turn encouraging people to do something about it!”

She noted that a good deal of Spaniards were supportive of the strike but were not striking themselves as they cannot afford to do so.

Asked about the difference between Spain and the UK in terms of gender relations, she said: "I'm not sure if Spain is less equal than the UK but it does feel slightly more behind the times in general, so I suppose that includes gender equality as well.”

A poll for the newspaper El Pais found 82per cent supported the strike and 76 per cent thought women in Spain had more difficult lives than their male counterparts.

In Spain, Women were paid 13 per cent and 19 per cent less than their male counterparts in the public and private sectors, data showedfrom the European Union's statistical provider Eurostat said.

Government statistics also demonstrate that reports of violent abuse are rising - there were 129,193 in 2015 and 142,893 in 2016.

Last year in Spain 49 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners in comparison to 44 in 2016.

Activists are urging women in the UK to go on strike, with organisers from Women's Strike UK saying 2000 people are expected to meet in central London.

- Maya Oppenheim, The Independent

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