March 8, 2015 6:36 pm
Updated: March 8, 2015 7:02 pm

International Women’s Day marches around the world call for an end to sexual violence

Turkish women beat riot police shields on March 8, 2015 as they try to cross a police cordon to reach Taksim square during a rally on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul to mark International Women's Day.

AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC
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TORONTO – From New York to Turkey men and women gathered for demonstrations to mark International Women’s Day.

Thousands gathered at the United Nations in New York City for a march to Times Square to join the voices around the world demanding an end to sexual violence against women and equality in the workplace.

UN Secretary – General Ban Ki-Moon said Sunday the gains made for gender equality have been too slow since the signing of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995, a pledge by 189 governments calling for increased women’s rights.


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“When you hold back half of our population, [we cannot realize] 100 per cent of our potential,” Ki-Moon told marchers in New York. “We have to fully respect and use the potential of all of our women.”

In London, celebrities, activists and politicians marched from City Hall to the Royal Festival Hall with many in the crowd carrying banners and dressed in the style of suffragettes.

Amnesty International marked the day by calling for an end to the abuses still endured by women and girls, including widespread rape and sexual violence in conflict zones Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, north east Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and other areas controlled by the Islamic State.

“Women and girls continue to suffer gender-based violence and other human rights violations in the belief that they were justified by tradition, custom or religion, such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation and crimes committed in the name of so called ‘honour,’” the Amnesty International said in a statement.

Demonstrations that took place in Istanbul, Turkey were dedicated to the death of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan, a student who was killed in February after resisting being raped by a bus driver. The killing prompted nationwide protests against the perceived failure by the Turkish government to prevent violence against woman.

Back in Canada, marches were held across the country over the weekend where thousands called for an end to the unequal pay for women and focused on issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

WATCH: Women’s Day march in Toronto brings awareness to missing aboriginal women

Organizers in Toronto say more than 5,000 people were in attendance while marching through the city’s downtown core.

“We want the prime minister, the top political figure in our country to recognize there are far too many missing and murdered aboriginal women in our country,” Jenny Ahn, an even organizer, told Global News.

Others marched in solidarity for victims of domestic violence at home and around the world.

“I’m a survivor of domestic abuse and I’m here to support women, and to stop domestic abuse,” said Faye Farrage.

READ MORE: Students speak out about sexualized violence on university campuses at Women’s Day rally

At rallies held in Halifax, Montreal and Edmonton sexual violence against women was also a key issue.

“In Nova Scotia, we’ve really seen these issues of sexism and misogynistic are pervasive on campuses, and we’ve seen very blatant examples of rape culture and ways in which women on campus are made to feel unsafe,” Michaela Sam, a student at King’s College, told Global News.

Dalhousie University became embroiled in controversy when a Facebook page created by students in the school’s dentistry program was found to contain misogynistic and violent comments about their female classmates.

*With files from Global’s Cindy Pom, Natasha Pace and the Associated Press

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