'Don't buy me cupcakes - treat me with respect' say protesters on International Women's Day

'Don't buy me cupcakes - treat me with respect' say protesters on International Women's Day
People take part in an International Women's Day protest in Dublin city centre. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Put down the cupcakes and pick up a placard.

The message from the traffic-stopping International Women's Day protest on O'Connell Bridge in Dublin city centre was both literal and figurative.

"This is not a celebration in Spain," explained Madrid native Tania Brazal who was determined to change the way the day was marked in her adopted home.

"It's a day of strike. We don't go to work, we don't go to college, we don't purchase anything. As it says here on my placard: When we stop, the world stops. We want the world to stop and take notice," she said.

"I see women coming together to have cupcakes and tea today. That's a nice thing to do but it's not going to change anything. Don't buy me cupcakes - treat me with respect. Don't bring me flowers - bring me my rights."

Tania was one of a group of several hundred women and several dozen men who assembled on the capital's main thoroughfare under the banners of trade unions, socialist parties, student unions and movements for reproductive rights.

They highlighted the plague of violence against women, the gender pay gap, lone parent poverty, the invisible and unpaid work of predominantly female carers, sexual harassment and the culture it thrives in and the plight of homeless mothers and their children.

They didn't insist on spurning cupcakes but the tone said there was a time to be militant and a time for merriment and today the former had to hold sway.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger was unimpressed by the special Cabinet meeting held earlier in the day to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women.

It's utterly meaningless if refuges are not resourced, if rape crisis centres can't answer their phones, if the housing crisis continues.

Jess Morris of the DIT Students Union pleaded for a public consensus on the importance of embracing consent as the starting point of intimate relations.

Ciara Considence of Midwives for Choice demanded an end to the "obstetric monopoly" she said was depriving women of any say in how they gave birth.

Jessica Bowes, domestic violence survivor and campaigner, called for the establishment of a statutory maintenance agency to spare women the ordeal of having to pursue ex-partners for money to support their children.

Earlier, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan had announced Ireland's long-awaited ratification of the Istanbul Convention, saying it "sends an important message that Ireland does not tolerate such violence".

Women's Aid, Safe Ireland and the National Women's Council all welcomed the move but said that living up to its aims required much greater investment in emergency response services, legal supports, counselling and safe accommodation.

Caitriona Gleeson of Safe Ireland said: "Ireland has made significant strides in areas such as policy, training and legislation over the past few years but the reality on the ground is that the response to women looking for safety remains fragmented."

Margaret Martin of Women's Aid said: "There is still much work ahead."

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