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Topless feminists protest against Davos forum

A trio of topless feminist activists set off pink flares and staged a noisy protest in the bitter cold outside the Davos forum for the global elite over the weekend.

Topless feminists protest against Davos forum
Guard tries to prevent topless protesters from advancing past fence at Davos forum. Photo: Johannes Eisele/ AFP

Braving sub-zero temperatures in the Swiss ski resort, the women from the Ukrainian group Femen tried to break through a security fence before police guarding the World Economic Forum bundled them away.

It was the second year running that the group has protested at Davos, where politicians, business leaders and officials from around the world gather for a frantic round of seminars and cocktail parties.

The women — two Ukrainians and a Frenchwoman — arrived at the fortified Kongress Zentrum in Davos wearing heavy khaki coats, before stripping off to reveal that they were wearing just denim shorts and tights.

With "SOS DAVOS" daubed across their breasts in thick black pen and "Poor for Being Women" written on their bare backs, the three chanted slogans, blew whistles and lit flares that belched out clouds of bright pink smoke.

They then briefly pushed their way past a metal security fence on Saturday before police officers in bulky jackets pushed them back.

Finally the women, still struggling and topless, were carried off by police.

"Today Femen activists came to scream SOS in Davos, SOS from all women from all over the world, because we are tired of looking at those guys who are under protection, eating caviar and drinking champagne, pretending they care about (the) women question," said protester Inna Shevchenko, from Ukraine.

"But all the time when they discuss women in economics it's a discussion about one thing — how to earn money more using women — because women are always treated as slaves, as cheap workers they can use."

The Femen women's power group has been making headlines since 2010 for topless feminist, pro-democracy and anti-corruption protests in Russia, Ukraine, the Vatican and London.
 
 In September they set up their first "training centre" in Paris.

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WOMEN

Should stay-at-home parents in Switzerland be paid a salary?

A new Swiss divorce ruling sparks a proposal that parents who stay at home and take care of children while the other spouse works, should be compensated by the government.

Should stay-at-home parents in Switzerland be paid a salary?
Housework should be compensated by the government, some say. Photo by Guillaume Suivant / AFP

What is the new divorce rule?

Switzerland’s highest court has handed down a decision removing the responsibility of an employed spouse to financially support the partner who has not worked outside of home during marriage.

While the ruling doesn’t mention gender, it particularly affects women.

Specifically, the court lifted the so-called “45-year-old rule”, under which stay-at-home spouses were not obligated to support themselves after divorce, if they were over 45 years old.

In its ruling, the court said that “the possibility of gainful employment must always be assumed” regardless of age, though exemptions could be made in some situations, including care of small children, lack of professional experience, and health.

How has this ruling spawned off the idea of compensating stay-at-home parents?

It came from a Swiss writer and editor Sibylle Stillhart who said in an interview that “finding a well-paying job after not having been employed at all or only part-time for years is not easy, if not impossible”.

She added that taking care of housework and children, requires 58 hours a week of “unpaid labour”.

What does she propose?

She said the state should pay income for domestic work.

“This way, if a couple separates and the woman finds herself with her dependent children and no salaried work, she would nevertheless be supported by the community for the services rendered, in particular for the education of the children who, later, will also contribute to national prosperity through their work”.

Stillhart suggested that a monthly salary of 7,000 francs for a family with two children is fair.

“Don’t tell me that Switzerland is not rich enough for that “, she added.

READ MORE: ‘Unprecedented crisis’: New figures show stark impact of pandemic on all Swiss job sectors

Is this likely to happen?

Rudolf Minsch, economist at Economiesuisse, an umbrella organisation of Swiss businesses, said the proposal is not realistic.

“This would lead to massive tax increases. And it would not be profitable from the point of view of equality between men and women at the professional level, because women could be satisfied with this income and no longer seek to enter the labour market”, he said.

Is this idea new?

Not quite. While it’s the first one of its kind to be created as a response to new divorce rulings, the idea of basic income for everyone in Switzerland was floated around before.

On June 5, 2016, Swiss voters rejected the initiative “For an unconditional basic income”, which proposed that each resident receive 2,500 francs a month, regardless of whether they are employed or not. 

 All the cantons had said no, as had 76.9 percent of the population.

A few cantons stood out by being more open to the idea, such as Basel-City (36 percent in favour), Jura (35.8 percent) and Geneva (34.7 percent).

Despite this rejection, the idea continues to circulate in Switzerland and internationally.

READ MORE: What do teachers earn in Switzerland – and where do they earn the most?

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