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International Women’s Day events highlight gaps in gender equality


MADRID — Millions of people around the world planned to march, attend conferences and enjoy artistic events on Wednesday to mark International Women’s Day, an annual celebration set to recognize women and demand equality for half of the world population.

While activists have noted progress in some countries, repression in countries such as Afghanistan and Iran, and the large numbers of women and girls experiencing sexual and domestic violence worldwide, underline the ongoing struggle to secure women’s rights.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted this week that women’s rights are being “misused, threatened and violated” around the world and that gender equality will not be achieved for the next 300 years given the current rate of change.

Progress made in decades is disappearing because “the patriarchy is fighting back,” Guterres said.

The United Nations recognized International Women’s Day in 1977, but the occasion has its roots in labor movements of the early 20th century. The day is commemorated in different ways and to varying degrees in different countries.

Women gathered in Pakistan’s major cities to march under tight security. According to the organizers, the demonstrations were aimed at pursuing rights guaranteed by the constitution. Some conservative groups threatened to violently stop similar marches last year.

Women’s rights activists in Japan held a small rally to renew their demand for the government to allow married couples to continue using different surnames. Under the Civil Code of 1898, a couple must adopt “the surname of the husband or wife” at the time of marriage.

The activists argued that the law contributes to gender inequality because women feel strong pressure to take their husband’s name. Surveys show that the majority support both men and women keeping their own names.

In the Philippines, hundreds of protesters from various women’s groups gathered in Manila for higher wages and decent jobs.

“We see the biggest gender pay gap,” said protest leader Joms Salvador. “We are seeing an unprecedented increase in the number of female workers working informally without any protection.”

The United Nations has identified Afghanistan as the most repressive in the world for women and girls since the Taliban takeover in 2021. The UN mission said Afghanistan’s new rulers “imposed rules that effectively lock most women and girls in their homes “.

They have banned education for girls after sixth grade and denied women access to public spaces such as parks and gyms. Women must cover themselves from head to toe and are also not allowed to work for national and international non-governmental organizations.

In Spain, more than 1 million people were expected for rowdy evening demonstrations in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities. Large rallies are also organized that are also expected in many other cities around the world, while only small events are held in some countries.

Spain on Tuesday passed a new parity law requiring women – and men – to make up at least 40% of the boards of listed companies and large private companies. The same will apply to the Spanish government cabinet.

Political parties must also have gender equality on their electoral lists, with alternating names of male and female candidates.

Activists and leftist governments in Spain have been promoting women’s rights over the past two decades in areas such as access to abortion, menstrual leave and parental leave. Many European countries have also made progress in gender equality.

This is the first International Women’s Day since last year the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion and many states introduced restrictions on abortion.

Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.

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