MANILA, Philippines — Hundreds of women activists in pink and purple shirts protested against President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines on Thursday, as marches and demonstrations in Asia kicked off International Women’s Day.
Protest leaders sang and danced in a boisterous rally in downtown Manila’s Plaza Miranda. They handed red and white roses to mothers, sisters and widows of several drug suspects slain under Duterte’s deadly crackdown on illegal drugs. Protesters called Duterte among the worst violators of women’s rights in Asia.
In Myanmar, leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged women to build peaceful democracies using their strength in politics, economics and social issues. Protesters in Spain got an early start, launching a 24-hour strike during which women have been called on to stop working, whether at the company or at home.
And in China, students at Tsinghua University used the occasion to make light of a proposed constitutional amendment to scrap term limits for the country’s president.
One banner joked that a boyfriend’s term should also have no limits, while another said, “A country cannot exist without a constitution, as we cannot exist without you!”
China’s ceremonial legislature is poised to pass a constitutional amendment that will allow President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely during its annual session. Photos of the students’ banners, like other content about the proposed amendment, were quickly censored on social media.
Suu Kyi’s speech marked the third International Women’s Day celebrated in Myanmar under a civilian government. She led her party to a landslide victory in 2015 elections and leads the government even though the country’s constitution bars her from the presidency.
“A country’s human rights values will be enhanced when women are granted their rights,” she said. “Also by using women’s strength and ability, it will be supportive to the development of the economy as well.”
Philippine protesters condemned the thousands of what they say were extrajudicial killings, which the police deny.
Protest leader Jean Enriquez also railed against Duterte’s anti-women remarks saying: “We’re so alarmed. We have seen his direct attacks on women under his iron-hand rule and it’s now time to heighten our resistance.”
Human rights groups have condemned Duterte’s sexist remarks, including one where he asked troops to shoot female communist rebels in the genitals.
A rally for the rights of female workers was scheduled for later Thursday in central Seoul in South Korea, where a rapidly spreading #Metoo movement is galvanizing support for women’s issues.
Other events are planned across Asia, the Mideast, Europe and the Americas.