Feminists Urge Ukraine to Reclaim Women's Day

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Around a thousand people marched through Kiev on Wednesday, International Women's Day, calling for a return to the original feminist meaning of a holiday now largely associated with flowers and gifts.

March 8 was celebrated in the Soviet Union and is still one of the most widely marked holidays in Ukraine, but activists say the emphasis on flowers and compliments to women runs counter to the concept of gender equality.  

"I came to the march just to revive the original meaning of March 8," said Alina Zabruyko, a 22-year-old student. 

"From the beginning it was a day for women's rights, not a day for flowers."

Marchers shouted slogans including "Woman's rights are human rights!" and held banners saying "Sexism isn't sexy" and "Don't give flowers, give safety."

Protesters said they were marching to highlight domestic violence, mistreatment of women in maternity hospitals and bullying in the armed forces.

"Today in Ukraine violence is being used against women. It is often invisible -- it takes place in families, in hospitals, at work. It is not given enough attention," said 27-year-old protester Diana Poladova, who works for an NGO called the Expert Center for Human Rights. 

Police detained three counter-protesters after they attempted to throw bright green disinfectant at the activists.

One of those detained told journalists he wanted to "protest against actions that divide Ukrainian society".

"They are alienating Ukrainian women from Ukrainian men," the young man told the crowd as he was grabbed by police officers.

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