Women strike in Switzerland for fairer pay and more equality

Women across Switzerland are going on strike, burning bras and staging other demonstrations to demand fairer pay, more equality and an end to sexual harassment and violence — the first such protests in the Alpine country in 28 years.

Discontent over sexism and workplace inequality is underpinning the “women’s strike”. Many are also demanding higher pay specifically for domestic workers, teachers and caregivers, jobs more often held by women.

In Lausanne, hundreds rallied at the city’s cathedral and marched to the city centre to set wooden pallets on fire, throwing items like ties and bras on to the blaze.

Women protest during a nationwide strike  (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone/AP)
Women protest during a nationwide strike (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone/AP)

A few women scaled the cathedral to shout out the hour, a tradition rarely carried out by women.

Supporters hoped for a “purple wave”, due to the colour adopted for a movement whose main logo features a clenched fist inside a cross-and-circle Venus symbol.

The call to protest encouraged women to avoid store purchases or trips to restaurants, to ratchet up the economic impact.

Some companies showed their support: the Roche Tower in Basel, the north-western city’s highest skyscraper, lit up in the logo of the movement.

Strikers in Lausanne (Keystone/AP)
Strikers in Lausanne (Keystone/AP)

Women were encouraged to leave their workplaces at 3.24pm, as organisers calculate that is the time when women should stop working to earn as much as men proportionately by average hourly wage.

Friday’s events allude to protests on June 14, 1991, which drew hundreds of thousands of Swiss women who left their jobs to condemn discrimination, 20 years after they won the right to vote and a decade after sexual equality became law.

- Press Association

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