Videos on social media showed protests in various cities around the country, with protesters speaking out about the gender pay gap, street harassment and violence against women.
“For me it is emotional. Because I scream for me, but I also scream for my sisters and brothers, I scream for all the other children who lost a mother or a father, and I also scream for my mother, who would have screamed if she was still here,” said Roxanne Errico, 19, who told the Reuters news agency that her mother was killed by an abusive boyfriend,
The Swiss Trade Union Federation, which helped to organize the protests, said the coronavirus pandemic had shone a light on the lack of progress in improving equality, working conditions and recognition of unpaid domestic work.
“(The pandemic) has in fact drawn attention to the kind of work that is very often carried out by women,” the federation wrote on its website.
“This has finally been recognized as ‘being systemically important,’ but apart from rounds of applause on balconies nothing has been done.”
Switzerland ranks second in the United Nations’ gender equality index, which assigns a score based on indicators such as maternal mortality and the proportion of female politicians elected to parliament.
However, women’s rights activists say women are still systemically discriminated against in the professional world, job security and advancement are limited, and protections for women facing harassment, abuse and violence are lacking.
Swiss government statistics show that women in full-time employment earn on average 11.5% less than men, and a 2019 survey commissioned by Amnesty International revealed that sexual violence is widespread.
One in five women surveyed said they had been subjected to sexual violence, according to Amnesty.
Sunday’s protests came one year to the day after the unions organized a women’s strike as well as workshops, demonstrations and flash mobs to highlight the country’s poor record on gender equality and the gender pay gap.
Women from trade unions, feminist groups and women’s rights organizations came together to argue that one of the world’s richest nations has given half of its population a poor deal.
Last year’s strike was the first of its kind since 1991, when a similar protest saw some 500,000 women demonstrate against continued inequality across all sectors of life, 10 years after gender equality was enshrined in the country’s constitution.
The 1991 demonstrations eventually led to the passing of the Gender Equality Act in 1995, which banned discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.