Women strike in Switzerland for fairer pay, more equality

GENEVA — Women across Switzerland are walking off the job, 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 typically held more by women.

Around midnight in Lausanne, hundreds rallied at the city's cathedral and marched downtown to set wooden pallets on fire, then throwing items like neckties and brassieres onto the inferno. A few women scaled the cathedral to shout out the hour, a tradition that is rarely carried out by women.

Supporters hoped for a "purple wave," so-called for the color adopted for a movement whose main logo features a clenched fist inside a cross-and-circle Venus symbol.

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

Some companies were showing their support: The Roche Tower in Basel, the northwestern city's highest skyscraper, lit up in the logo of the movement Thursday evening.

Women are being encouraged to leave their workplaces at 3:24 p.m. Organizers calculate that 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, that drew hundreds of thousands of Swiss women who left their jobs to condemn discrimination, 20 years after Swiss women won the right to vote and a decade after sexual equality became law.

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