Thursday's holiday also coincided with a sexual harassment scandal brewing in Russia's parliament. Dozens of protesters took turns standing outside the parliament building to demand the resignation of a pro-Kremlin deputy accused by three female journalists of sexual harassment. The lawmaker in question apologized for any offense given but denied the accusations.
In Turkey, which has been the scene of a sweeping crackdown against government opponents, the Women's Day commemorations turned into a wider condemnation of human rights abuses. Groups organizing a march down the capital's famed Istiklal Street condemned the closing of news outlets and the ongoing state of emergency declared by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
But marchers also sought to call attention to issues such as "honor killings," which target women perceived to have brought their families dishonor. More than 400 such killings took place last year, according to We Will Stop Femicide Platform, a Turkish group monitoring the fatalities.
In some countries, the day took on a distinctly commercial air. Chinese retailers staged a blitz of retail promotions aimed at women, offering specials pegged to what they dubbed "Queens' Day" or "Goddesses' Day," the Reuters news agency reported. That drew complaints from some women's groups, who called it a distraction from social ills such as sexual harassment.
Western Europe considers itself femimist-friendly, by and large, but protests there centered on longstanding inequities.
In France, where estimates are that women earn a quarter less than their male counterparts, the day was marked by a brief symbolic pause in sessions of both houses of the parliament. The government announced a raft of new measures aimed at combating gender inequality and violence against women.
In central Paris, thousands gathered in the Place de la Republique, which houses a large statue of Marianne, the symbol of the French republic.
"It's not a party!" said organizer Veronique Sehier. "It's a battle for everyone."
The women's group Femen, whose members usually protest topless with slogans written on their bodies, stood at the base of the statue fully dressed.
In Germany, whose Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of the world's most powerful women, demonstrations were held in the capital, Berlin, and other cities to call attention to issues including pay inequity and too few women in leadership positions. "There is still a lot of work to do," Merkel said.