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French, Spanish women protest violence, gender gap

Demonstrators hold placard to protest gender inequalities in the workplace in Paris, on November 7, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in France and Spain to protest gender pay gaps and violence against women in the heart of Europe which styles itself as the champion of human rights. 

Demonstrators gathered at Place de la Republique in Paris after activists called on the country's women to stop working at 4:34 p.m. on Monday to protest against gender pay gaps.

According to the latest figures provided by the European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat, women’s wages in France are some 15.1 percent less than men for the same time and type of work.

Such discrimination in salary means that women in practice are working “voluntarily” for free, the association leading the protest "Les Glorieuses" (The Glorious Women) said in a statement.

“We call on women, men, unions and feminist organizations to join the movement… and to hold events and protests in order to make income inequality a central political problem," it said.

"By tackling this subject, we’re showing that the gender pay gap is not just a ‘woman’s issue’,” it added. 

The strike came less than a month after thousands of women in Iceland downed tools for a similar cause in a bid to voice their anger against the 14 percent wage inequality in their country.  

Rally against violence

In Spain, hundreds of women staged a protest rally outside the Museo del Prado (Prado Museum) in Madrid to denounce gender-based violence.

The rally, held for the second consecutive year, came as part of the so-called November 7 (7-N) movement, aimed at denouncing the alarming rate of violence in the country.

Following the protest action, the demonstrators proceeded to march on the streets, chanting slogans against the increasing violence.

According to rights groups, domestic violence in Europe is widespread across races, religions, communities and cultures. For example, a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights last year said that the scale of the violence in the UK was "deeply troubling."

Muslim women are particularly the target of bans and other restrictions against Islamic dress across Europe, which have prompted criticism by many human rights advocates.   

France was the first European country to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public places followed by Belgium which prohibited it in July 2011.

Last month, Germany proposed a draft bill to prohibit state officials from wearing face veils, citing what it describes as “communication” problems caused by such a covering.

Several towns in Italy have local bans on face-covering veils while in the UK, schools are allowed to decide their own dress code.

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