Hundreds of thousands of women gathered in cities in Switzerland on Wednesday to advocate for equal rights, fair treatment, respectable wages and adequate pensions, with the influential Kurdish slogan ‘Jin Jiyan Azadî’ (Woman, Life, Freedom) also reverberating through the streets, showcasing support for the international women’s movement.
Demonstrations and events took place in Basel, Bern, Zurich, Lucerne, St Gallen, Lausanne and Geneva, with over 300,000 women participating across the country, as reported by the Swiss Trade Union Federation.
The gender wage gap took centre stage during this year’s women’s strike, now officially known as the Feminist Strike, along with protests against other forms of workplace bias and harassment.
Women earned an average of 43 percent less than men last year, according to the Swiss Trade Union Federation. While some of this discrepancy can be attributed to women working part-time, they still earn 18 percent less than men in similar job roles and are more likely to be employed in lower-paid, feminised jobs such as cleaning. These statistics place Switzerland among the worst countries in Europe when it comes to pay inequality.
Green Party MP Sibel Arslan emphasised the need for sensible measures at the national level to combat sexual violence and domestic abuse. Switzerland ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, in 2017, and it is crucial for the country to now implement its objectives, she added.
The previous nationwide women’s strike in Switzerland took place in 2019, and earlier this year, Switzerland’s Trade Union Federation expressed disappointment with the lack of progress in women’s rights since then. The 2019 strike, organised by trade unions, united nearly 500,000 people and followed a 1991 strike when women demanded that a constitutional article on gender equality be translated into concrete legislation.
The selection of 14 June as the date for the strike holds significance as it commemorates the anniversary of the 1981 vote that enshrined the principle of equality in the Constitution.