LONDON (Reuters)

In joyous celebrations and angry protests, women around the world came together in gatherings large and small on Thursday to mark International Women’s Day with a call for gender equality

The day had extra resonance this year after widespread sexual abuse accusations in Hollywood sparked the #MeToo movement which feminists hope signals one of the most significant shifts towards equal rights in decades.

 

Women attend a protest as a part of the #MeToo movement on International Women's Day in Seoul
Women attend a protest as a part of the #MeToo movement on International Women’s Day in Seoul, South Korea. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

 

In Saudi Arabia, a group of women whooped and cheered as they marked International Women’s Day by exercising a recently acquired freedom: the right to go for a jog.

Wearing big smiles and traditional full-length robes adapted for sports, they pounded through sleepy alleys past puzzled shopkeepers in Jeddah’s historic district.

 

Women wear knickers as masks during a demonstration on International Women's Day in Buenos Aires
Women wear knickers as masks during a demonstration on International Women’s Day in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

Women in the deeply conservative kingdom are hopeful of huge changes. The government introduced physical education for girls last year and began licensing women’s sports clubs, but Saudis are still coming around to women running in public.

“This is just the beginning of a revolution for women in Saudi Arabia. In jobs, in our lives, in society, everything is going to change for Saudi women,” said one of the joggers, university student Sama Kinsara.

 

Women take part in a demonstration to celebrate International Women's Day in Athens
Women take part in a demonstration to celebrate International Women’s Day in Athens, Greece. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

 

The biggest change yet will come in the summer when Saudi women will be allowed to drive.

In Spain, women went on a nationwide strike and held hundreds of rallies, closing many main roads and squares.

Their protests included bike rallies, marches, and midnight pot-banging sessions at which they chanted slogans such as “We continue to fight regardless of the cost!” and “Long live the women’s struggle“.

 

Woman places names of missing girls at a memorial with a message that reads "Not One More", marking the women who have gone missing or found dead, during a protest to mark International Women's Day in Ciudad Juarez
A woman places names of missing girls at a memorial with a message that reads “Not One More”, marking the women who have gone missing or found dead, during a protest to mark International Women’s Day at Paso del Norte international border crossing, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

 

The two largest unions said around 6 million women took part. There was no official count.

 

PAIN AND SORROW

In Turkey‘s Hatay province, near the Syrian border, women wept as they sat on the ground, their hands bound with scarves, to show solidarity with women imprisoned in Syria. Others waved flags, chanting against President Bashar al-Assad: “Murderer Assad, evacuate the prisons!”

 

Acid attack survivors walk on the runway during a fashion show to mark International Women's Day in Thane on the outskirts of Mumbai
Acid attack survivors walk on the runway during a fashion show to mark International Women’s Day in Thane on the outskirts of Mumbai, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

 

In Manila more than a thousand activists marched, calling President Rodrigo Duterte a “macho-fascist” for his lewd comments and treatment of his female critics.

In Iran, where there has been a spate of protests against mandatory Islamic dress, women and men gathered in front of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour, and Social Welfare, chanting slogans, videos on social media showed.

 

People wear red ribbons on their faces during a demonstration as part of International Women's Day in Sao Paulo
People wear red ribbons on their faces during a demonstration as part of International Women’s Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

 

“No to gender inequality, No to discriminatory laws” the women chanted in a video.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a New York-based advocacy group, said at least 12 people were arrested. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said on Wednesday that one of the girls who removed her veil in Tehran to protest against compulsory hijab has been sentenced to two years in jail. Dolatabadi said the woman, whom he did not name, was found guilty of “promoting corruption by removing her veil in public.”

 

 

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday accused Iran’s enemies of funding anti-hijab protests.

“As the result some girls were deceived and removed their veil here and there,” he said. “But that’s a small issue. What I find worrying is that some of the elite are now questioning mandatory hijab.”

 

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

 

McDonald's iconic 'M' logo is turned upside down in honour of International Women's Day in Lynwood
McDonald’s iconic ‘M’ logo is turned upside down in honour of International Women’s Day in Lynwood, California, U.S., March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

 

An acid attack survivor has her makeup done backstage prior to a fashion show to mark International Women's Day in Thane on the outskirts of Mumbai
An acid attack survivor has her makeup done backstage prior to a fashion show to mark International Women’s Day in Thane on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, March 7, 2018.
REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

 

Activists march at the main shopping and pedestrian street of Istiklal during a rally on the International Women's Day in Istanbul
Activists march at the main shopping and pedestrian street of Istiklal during a rally on the International Women’s Day in Istanbul, Turkey. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

Women's rights activists display streamer that reads "Women's Empowerment" while marching along a busy street during a celebration of the Women's International Day in Quiapo city, metro Manila
Women’s rights activists display streamer that reads “Women’s Empowerment” while marching along a busy street during a celebration of the Women’s International Day in Quiapo city, metro Manila, Philippines. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

 

An activist pushes a stroller with a skull during a march to mark International Women's Day in Managua
An activist pushes a stroller with a skull during a march to mark International Women’s Day in Managua, Nicaragua March 8, 2018.The banner reads “I have filed a complaint with the police twice.” REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

 

eople march during a demonstration as part of a nationwide feminist strike on International Women's Day in Valencia
People march during a demonstration as part of a nationwide feminist strike on International Women’s Day in Valencia, Spain, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Heino Kalis

 

Military policemen cast their shadows as they march toward a protest to mark International Women's Day in Tegucigalpa
Military policemen cast their shadows as they march toward a protest to mark International Women’s Day in Tegucigalpa, Honduras March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera