Swiss women stage strike for long-delayed equality

15 June, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Swiss women stage strike for long-delayed equality

Women take part in a nation-wide women’s strike for wage parity, on Friday in Swiss capital Bern. Nearly 30 years after staging a first strike, women across Switzerland stage mass demonstrations for for equal pay. —AFP PHOTO

LAUSANNE/ZURICH: Women across Switzerland held a strike on Friday to highlight their wealthy nation’s poor record on female rights, recreating the passion of the first such walkout 28 years ago, reports Reuters.

In Lausanne, chanting protesters gathered at midnight outside the cathedral tower, whose bell was illuminated in purple, the official color of the protest.

Blowing whistles and banging pots and pans, hundreds of demonstrators - mostly women but also men - carried placards reading “no means no”, “I am not a princess but the woman I choose to be”, and “don’t free me, I’ll do that myself”.

Protesters marched through the streets of Zurich, the Swiss financial capital. “Men, go do the ironing,” one sign read.

Despite its high quality of life, Switzerland lags other developed economies in female pay and workplace gender equality. Friday’s event echoed a strike in 1991, five years before the Gender Equality Act came into force. That banned workplace discrimination and sexual harassment and protected women from bias or dismissal over pregnancy, marital status, or gender.

But more than 20 years later, women still earn less than men, face routine questioning of their competence, and encounter condescension and paternalism on the job, they say.

Organizers say the strike draws attention to wages, recognition of care work, violence against women, and the need for greater representation in positions of power and more equitable family policy.

Swiss women earn roughly 20% less than men. While that is an improvement from about a third less in 1991, the discrimination gap — meaning differences that cannot be explained by rank or role — has actually worsened since 2000, government data show.

On June 14, 1991, women blocked trams during a sit-in in the heart of Zurich’s financial district and gathered outside schools, hospitals and across cities with purple balloons and banners to demand equal pay for equal work.