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Women's Day marches worldwide bolstered by groundswell of #MeToo

Laura King, Kate Linthicum and Sabra Ayres, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Some of the issues raised were wrenchingly personal. In Britain, a group of 135 lawmakers from all parties used the occasion to write to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, urging her to allow women from Northern Ireland the same access to abortion services as those in the rest of the United Kingdom. Currently, many women seeking abortions in Northern Ireland must travel to England.

One of the largest protests came in Spain, where women staged nationwide work stoppages with the support of two major unions. The newspaper El Pais posted a video on Twitter that showed a half-empty newsroom. "We're not all here today," its Twitter account reported, explaining that the women were out on strike.

A huge evening march was held in Madrid, with gatherings in many other Spanish cities -- including Barcelona, which has been roiled by tensions over an independence movement and where riot police scuffled with some marchers.

In Mexico City, teacher Claudia Davila Castillo walked out of her classroom Thursday morning to gather with a group of colleagues near the landmark Cibeles Fountain. Their protest was one of dozens that sprung up around the city, including a large march down the city's main thoroughfare.

Toting signs that said "Machismo: Now that's terrorism," Davila and her colleagues led chants as they marched around a large fountain featuring an elaborate neoclassical statue.

"We're not celebrating today," said Davila, 45. "We're reflecting."

Street harassment is rampant in Mexico, one of her colleagues explained. "We are also mistreated at home!" another interjected.

Last month, Mexico had a "Me Too" moment when well-known actress Karla Souza came forward with allegations that she had been assaulted by a director. While her public stance has not opened the floodgates for other victims of harassment to come forward, as happened in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the U.S., Mexican feminists have been increasingly visible in recent years, especially around the issue of street harassment and violence.

Nearly half of Mexican women have been subjected to rape, groping or other forms of sexual violence, according to the United Nations, which ranks Mexico among the most violent countries for women. And in recent years, there has been mounting outrage around the most notorious cases, including hundreds of unsolved killings of female factory workers in the border city of Juarez and a similar spate of killings in the state of Mexico.

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In Tehran, the day served as a reminder of women's struggle for social freedoms. Uniformed and plainclothes officers cited women for violating the Islamic dress code requiring them to cover their hair, according to the Kargari news channel, an opposition media outlet based outside the country.

The channel described a "heavy crackdown" by police, and Iranians on social media reported large numbers of security officers in vans and motorcycles in central areas of Tehran. Iranian authorities have sought to quell any large demonstrations in recent months, following the anti-government protests that broke out in dozens of cities in late December.

State-run media delivered a Women's Day message from the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that was unlikely to satisfy those seeking change. "Women are the managers of the home and a source of peace in the minds of men," the message said.

(Staff writer King reported from Washington, staff writer Linthicum from Mexico City and special correspondent Ayres from Moscow. Special correspondents Erik Kirschbaum contributed from Berlin, Meg Bernhard from Madrid, Christina Boyle from London, Umar Farooq from Istanbul, Rahim Mostaghim from Tehran and Kim Willsher from Paris.)

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