International Women's Day: Activists march in Philippines, South Korea stages #MeToo protest as Spain goes on strike

South Korean demonstrators hold banners during a rally to mark International Women's Day as part of the country's #MeToo movement in Seoul on March 8, 2018.
South Korean demonstrators hold banners during a rally to mark International Women's Day as part of the country's #MeToo movement in Seoul on March 8, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA/SEOUL - Women's right activists in the Philippines marched in Manila against President Rodrigo Duterte, South Korean women protested in support of the #MeToo movement in Seoul, while workers in Spain went on an unprecedented strike to defend women's rights on International Women's Day on Thursday (March 8).

Around the world, events were held to push for progress on gender equality, and fight sexual harassment.

But it was retailers that dominated in China, with women being offered coupons and discounts on everything from sportswear to cosmetics and healthcare to get them to spend more.

In Manila, women's right activists staged a rally against Mr Duterte, denouncing his controversial comments about women and his treatment of female political opponents, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported.

Mr Duterte has come under fire from rights groups for making rape jokes and last month said he had ordered soldiers to shoot female insurgents in the genitals.

Mr Duterte's congressional allies on Thursday began an impeachment process against Supreme Court chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, on charges of corruption and other crimes. Ms Sereno, one of the country's highest-ranking women, was an outspoken critic of Mr Duterte's administration, Bloomberg reported.

In Seoul, hundreds of women and men held placards bearing the words #MeToo, in a sign the country had been swept up by the global movement against sexual harrasment and assault .

The government on Thursday vowed to strengthen laws against sexual assault and implement measures to reduce harassment after a string of scandals involving prominent figures in politics, entertainment and literature, Reuters reported. On Tuesday, a provincial governor from the ruling Democratic Party, Mr Ahn Hee Jung, resigned from politics after an aide accused him of multiple rapes in a television interview.

In Spain, women took part in a 24-hour strike to protest gender inequality and sexual discrimination, AFP reported.

The strike was called by 10 unions and backed by the countries top female politicians and famous women, including Spanish actress Penelope Cruz.

Feminist groups had also asked women not to spend money and to ditch their domestic chores for the day. Hundreds of trains were cancelled as part of the strike.

In a sobering sign of the progress still to be made on gender equality, the United Nations labour agency on Wednesday warned that women on average remained much less likely to participate in the labour market than men. At present, some 48.5 per cent of women and girls over the age of 15 are part of the global workforce, the International Labour Organization said in a report. That was 26.5 percentage points below the rate of male participation.

When women do participate in the labour market, they are far more likely to have informal jobs with low wages and few protections, the report said.