Several hundred people marched in Kaunas, Lithuania's second city, on March 8, the International Women's Day, demanding solidarity and firmer action on gender violence.
With whistles and slogans like “We want rights, not tulips” and “It's not my fault, however I dress and wherever I go” the protesters drew attention to mild sentences for violence perpetrators and police officers' comments blaming the victim.
“The whistle, as women know, is a symbol. Pepper spray, a key between your fingers are ways for women to defend themselves,” said Aistė Volungė, one of the organisers.
Eight out of 10 victims of domestic violence are women, she noted. In addition to physical violence, women continue to suffer from economic and political discrimination.
The gender pay gap stands at 14 percent, according to Eurostat's 2018 data.
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“We celebrate not with tulips, but by supporting one another and insisting it is not normal that women get blamed for suffering from sexual violence or police officers saying they shouldn't drink and prance around,” one of the marchers said.
She was referring to a recent case of a police officer posting a comment on social media about a rape victim, saying she should have done “less drinking and prancing around”.
Some of the marchers were carrying posters urging Lithuania to ratify the so-called Istanbul Convention, a 2011 Council of Europe document aimed at fighting domestic violence. Lithuania has not yet ratified the convention in face of conservative opposition.
Emphasising international solidarity, the marchers performed a Lithuanian rendition of Un Violador en Tu Camino, a Chilean protest song that has become an international anti-rape anthem.
In the speeches after the march, the participants noted that Lithuania had failed to make any progress in gender equality over the last decade and that the government's focus on “family values” often came at the expense of female domestic violence victims.