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International Women's Day 2020

French feminists join forces for women’s day as protesters tear gassed

Demonstrators at the start of the march in Paris for equality on Internatoinal Women's Day, 8 March 2020.
Demonstrators at the start of the march in Paris for equality on Internatoinal Women's Day, 8 March 2020. Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
3 min

Tens of thousands of demonstrators are taking to the streets of Paris and cities around France to mark International Women’s day, with the aim of bringing together several disparate issues facing women in France today.

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Those who are protesting against the pension reform being pushed through by the government will march alongside those fighting feminicides and domestic violence.

In Paris, Lyon, Nice, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Nancy, organisers are hoping to combine “feminist dynamics” to highlight issues of equality and women’s rights in all parts of life.

Demonstrators have been called on to wear blue work uniforms and red headscarves, to evoke Rosie the riveter, the image of the working woman during the Second World War, which has become a symbol for women’s working rights.

Women teargassed

There has been criticism of police reaction to a march in Paris on Saturday night organised by feminist groups not involved in Sunday’s march. Several thousand women took to the streets to call for an “antiracist feminism”.

Police used teargas to disperse the crowd at Republique, and nine people were arrested. A police source said that right before arriving at the place, demonstrators lay down on the ground, some chanted anti-police slogans. There was property damage and groups were breaking off of the main march.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said she was shocked by what she called the “inadmissible and incomprehensible” violence against the women by the police.

According to the junior minister for equality between men and women, Marlène Schiappa, interior minister Christophe Castaner, the boss of the police, asked for a report on what happened at the march.

"All women should be able to demonstrate peacefully to ask for their rights to be respected,” she wrote on Twitter.

Victims speaking out

Feminists are trying to capitalise on the movement that started three months ago with a massive consultation by the government to fight sexist and sexual violence.

Since then, women have come forward to denounce violence in the world of sport, especially by trainers of young athletes. The recent Cesar award for best director to Roman Polanski, who is wanted for rape in the United States, has focused attention on the world of cinema.

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