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Women across Switzerland march for their rights

Women's rights protestors bring their arguments to Berne

(Keystone)

Women in several Swiss cities took to the streets on Wednesday to highlight abuses of women's rights, as part of the World Women's March.

As well as global concerns, the demonstrators pressed for greater equality closer to home.

Around three hundred women protested outside a Berne hospital against poor wages in the nursing profession. Meanwhile the interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, was presented with an open letter from unions calling for compulsory maternity insurance in Switzerland.

In Sankt Gallen union representatives demanded an end to wage discrimination, while in Ticino a women's collective handed in a petition of almost 3,000 signatures, calling for guaranteed kindergarten places for three-year-olds.

A number of parliamentary initiatives have already been launched to improve conditions for women in society.

The most ambitious proposals come from the Social Democrat member of the House of Representatives, Ruth Vermot-Mangold, who asked parliament to vote on plans to give greater protection to victims of domestic violence. If her suggestions are approved, the victims of violence, who are by and large women and children, would remain in the household and the offender would be forced to move out. So far, it is the victims who have been told to leave their homes.

"I had the idea when I attended a Council of Europe meeting. Our Austrian neighbours already had this model in place for one-and-a-half years. And I think we can learn from their example," Ruth Vermot-Mangold told swissinfo. "If we follow suit, then it's only a matter of time before other Council member nations join us."

The offender would have to stay away from his home for at least 10 days.

Figures show an alarmingly high level of cases of domestic violence in Switzerland. Vermot-Mangold said, "At least 20 per cent of women in Switzerland are the victims of domestic violence."

However, she is far from confident parliament will approve her initiative. "There are quite a few right-wing men who will oppose it. Parliament has always been reluctant to deal with the painful reality of domestic violence," she said.

While domestic violence highlights the crudest of oppressions faced by women, Wednesday's protestors also wanted to emphasise widespread discrimination in everyday life. Along with nurses and other professionals, female artists were demonstrating both against violence and for their own recognition as the equals of male artists.

swissinfo with agencies

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