March 18, 2019
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European Union

Spanish PM: Protesters made history on International Women's Day

Madrid, Mar 9 (efe-epa).- Protesters in Spain made history and were an example for the world on International Women's Day, the Spanish prime minister said on social media Saturday after millions went on strike and hundreds of thousands took part in marches across the country to denounce inequality and gender violence.

Women and men in Spain flooded the streets of towns and cities nationwide Friday for strikes and picketing during the day, followed by enormous demonstrations in the evening that decried a lack of equality, demanded an end to gender violence and denounced the resurgence of sexist rhetoric adopted by far-right political parties.

"Yesterday, Spanish women made history. Again," Pedro Sanchez tweeted. "Thousands of united, diverse women demanded equality on streets across the country."

"And thousands of men accompanied them," the Socialist premier added. "Yesterday Spain was an example for the entire world."

According to one of the Iberian nation's largest trade federations, the General Union of Workers (UGT), some 6 million people went on strike on March 8 in Spain.

Of those taking part in the job action, many were from the health and education sectors.

Around 60 percent of the healthcare workforce went on strike during their morning shifts, while adherence to the strike was at 42 percent among pre-school and elementary school educators and at 60 percent at the high-school (secondary-school) level.

From the early hours on Friday, streets and squares were awash with women of all ages dressed in purple taking part in gatherings, debates, picnics and pickets, with many of the protesters also targeting multi-nationals with a message denouncing consumerism.

Students took center stage during the day-long events with some 2.5 million - mainly young women but also men - taking part in the walkout, the Students Trade Union said.

In the evening, throngs of people took to the streets for huge demonstrations in all of the main cities.

In Madrid, police estimated that 350,000 people attended the march, doubling last year's figure.

In the Canary Islands, over 27,000 people joined marches at the two capitals, Las Palmas of Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz of Tenerife.

The Guardia Urbana (municipal police force) in Barcelona estimated some 200,000 people took part in the Catalan march.

Tens of thousands of people also took part in marches in the northwestern region of Galicia, with especially large crowds of demonstrators gathering in the cities of Vigo and A Coruña.

On the same day that women and men were making their voices heard over gender violence, a man allegedly shot and killed his 62-year-old wife in Madrid.

Since official records on gender violence began to be kept in 2013, 985 women have been killed by men.

But unlike in the 2018 International Women's Day demonstrations, there was some pushback in Spain this year against the protesters' demands.

On Friday, the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations (CEOE) published a report that said the gender pay gap was due to women's lower propensity to take risks, negotiate and compete.

A far-right digital platform and organization, Hazteoir.org (which literally translates as "make yourself heard"), published several adverts in newspapers demanding the repeal of gender laws in Spain.

The far right, led by recently formed political party Vox, has adopted the view that the feminist movement in Spain has been hijacked by left-wing politics and that it excludes and vilifies men.

But the backlash against the women's movement served on Friday to further galvanize protesters, with larger crowds, more people going on strike and the sense that history was indeed being made.

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