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From Kyiv To Almaty, Marches For Rights On International Women's Day

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The march in Kyiv on March 8.

Women have marched across Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans, and Central Asia demanding governments do more to respect their rights as the world marks International Women's Day.

Thousands of activists in Kyiv marched through the city center on March 8 from the Mykhaylivska Square to the Poshtova Square holding posters with slogans like, "My Body-My Business," "Human Rights-Women's Rights," and "Join Istanbul Convention Against Domestic Violence Now." Many also held LGBT rainbow flags.

A group of feminist activists from Belarus were among the marchers in Kyiv, holding Belarusian flags and portraits of jailed Belarusian opposition politician Maryya Kalesnikava.

Hundreds of police marched along with the demonstrators to prevent possible brawls with activists of a far-right radical group called Tradition and Order, members of which, known for opposing feminist groups, held a parallel march.

Dozens of activists joined a march in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, under the slogan, “We March, We Don’t Celebrate-Against The Patriarchy That Kills."

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The participants demanded the investigation of domestic abuse cases and greater commitment to institutions working for women's empowerment.

According to Kosovo's police, 1,362 cases of domestic violence, mainly against women, were reported across the Balkan country last year.

In Almaty, Kazakhstan, hundreds of activists set out from the Mahatma Gandhi Park and headed across the city to the building of the Shoqan Valikhanov Science Academy, where they demonstrated holding posters saying, "Stop Domestic Violence," and "Women Want To Be Safe." They also demanded tolerance towards the LGBT community in the Central Asian nation.

One of the activists, Arina Osinovskaya, said at the rally that many feminist activists faced trials and were either fined or jailed for several days in similar rallies across Kazakhstan in the past.

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"Being a feminist activist means to fight for the lives of the victims of domestic violence, for the women convicted for defending themselves, for women who decided to stop being silent," Osinovskaya said, adding that she hopes more women and their supporters will take part in similar rallies in the future.

In Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, dozens of women marched across the city and rallied in the city center, demanding equal rights.

The activists held posters saying, "An Educated Girl Will Find Her Place," "Girls Will Win in The End," "Real Men Aren't Scared Of Equality," and "Safety For Women."

At a similar rally a year ago, feminists were attacked by a group of unknown men. Instead of protecting the women, police violently dispersed them while detaining several activists.

Six of those detained were later fined 3,000 soms ($35) each for violating the law on mass gatherings.

The women refused to pay the penalties and in November 2020, Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court ruled that the police crackdown was illegal and annulled the fines.

According to official statistics, since January 1 there have been 727 cases of domestic violence against women registered in Kyrgyzstan. The National Statistics Committee said that in 2020, as restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic locked down the country, domestic violence cases increased 65 percent. Most of the victims in such cases were women.

With contributions by RFE/RL's Ukrainian, Belarusian, Balkan, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz services
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