Protest and celebration mark Women’s Day, despite threats, arrests

Turkish anti-riot police officers push back women during a rally marking International Women’s Day on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on March 8, 2020. (AFP)

From the streets of Manila to a school in East London, people around the world marked International Women’s Day on Sunday with calls to end exploitation and increase equality.

But tensions marred some celebrations, with police firing tear gas and arresting demonstrators at rallies in Turkey and Kyrgyzstan.

Separatists detonated a bomb during a ceremony in Cameroon. No one was hurt in the attack.

“In many different ways or forms, women are being exploited and taken advantage of,” Arlene Brosas, the representative of a Filipino advocacy group said during a rally that drew hundreds to the area near the presidential palace. Protesters called for higher pay and job security, and demanded that President Rodrigo Duterte respect women’s rights.

In Pakistan, women rallied in cities across the country, despite petitions filed in court seeking to stop them. The opposition was stirred in part by controversy over a slogan used in last year’s march: “My Body, My Choice.”

Pakistani policewomen (R) escort activists of the Aurat (Woman) March carrying placards during a rally to mark International Women’s Day in Karachi on March 8, 2020. (AFP)

Pakistani policewomen (R) escort activists of the Aurat (Woman) March carrying placards during a rally to mark International Women’s Day in Karachi on March 8, 2020. (AFP)

Some conservative groups had threatened to stop this year’s marches by force. But Pakistani officials pledged to protest the marchers.

The rallies are notable in a conservative country where women often do not feel safe in public places because of open harassment. The main Islamic political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, organized its own rallies to counter the march.

At a school in East London, the duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, joined students in listening to speeches about women labor activists, and urged both girls and boys to respect the contributions of women every day of the year.

“For young men ... you have your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life - protect them. Make sure they are feeling valued and safe,” she told the students.

Britain’s Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, listens to a student reciting a poem during a visit to Robert Clack School in Essex, on March 6, 2020, in support of International Women’s Day. (AFP)

Britain’s Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, listens to a student reciting a poem during a visit to Robert Clack School in Essex, on March 6, 2020, in support of International Women’s Day. (AFP)

But safety was in short supply at some events to mark the day.

Police in Istanbul fire tear gas

In Turkey’s Istanbul, police fired tear gas on Sunday to prevent hundreds of women marching on the city’s central avenue after authorities ban the march for the second year running.

The issue of women’s rights is often on the news agenda following high profile femicides, and critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government of not taking violence against women seriously enough.

Separatists detonate a bomb  in Cameroon

The detonation of explosives triggered panic at a ceremony in Bamenda, an English-speaking town in the northwest of Cameroon.

Suspicions focused on separatists who had vowed to disrupt the events. No one was killed or wounded.

Police in Bishek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, detained about 60 people after a group of unidentified men broke up what authorities called an unauthorized rally.

Demonstrators had gathered in the city’s main square to express support for women’s and children’s rights. But unidentified men barged into the gathering. Police said people from both sides were detained, but news reports said they were primarily women.

They were released several hours later, after about 10 had been charged with resisting police, the Akipress news agency reported, citing an attorney.

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Last Update: 11:06 KSA 14:06 - GMT 11:06
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