WORK was halted Thursday as part of a 24-hour strike organised by the 8 March Commission and backed by 10 unions and some of Spain’s top women politicians.
Scores of marches under the slogan “if we stop, the world stops” are taking place across Spain.
Events marking the day are being held in dozens of other nations.
Women taking part have stopped working and have been urged by organisers to spend no money and ditch any domestic chores for the day.
Police were called to stop protesters blocking main roads in Barcelona but some women pickets still brought areas to a standstill.
Public transport nationwide is available but at reduced services and flights have also been affected.
Evening marches in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia and a number of other cities are leading events in 200 Spanish locations.
Many prominent women in the media were absent from their programmes.
The 8 March Commission is behind the strike. Its manifesto calls for “a society free of s3xist oppression, exploitation and violence” and says: “We do not accept worse working conditions, nor being paid less than men for the same work.”
A poll of 1,500 people for the El Pais daily suggested 82 per cent supported the strike, while 76 per cent thought women in Spain had harder lives than men.
Feminist groups only want women to strike to show how important their absence is but Spanish law does not allow for single-gender strikes and men were welcome to support it.
The two main unions had called for members to stop work for two hours in the morning and said that 5.3 million people had joined the stoppage.
Some have opposed the strike. The ruling centre-right party, the Partido Popular (PP), said the action was “for feminist elites and not real women with everyday problems”.
However, two of the five female ministers in Spain’s conservative government, Agriculture Minister Isabel García Tejerina and the president of the Madrid region, Cristina Cifuentes, said they would work longer hours to show the capacity of women.
Actress Penelope Cruz cancelled planned public events and said she would go on “domestic” strike.
The mayors of Madrid and Barcelona – Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau – are also backing the strike.
But the National Federation of Self-Employed Workers told El Pais that self-employed women remained overwhelmingly at work.
In Spain, women were paid 13% and 19% less than their male counterparts in the public and private sectors respectively, data from the European Union’s statistical provider Eurostat said.
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