Armed with banners, megaphones and placards over 2,000 women from across the country braved the freezing London streets yesterday and gathered for the “Reclaim the Night” march against male violence.
The Goldsmiths Feminist Society and the South London Fawcett Group were among the many women’s organisations protesting against what they describe as epidemic levels of male violence against women and the subsequent social tolerance for these crimes.
They marched to raise awareness and change social attitudes towards sexual violence as only one in every 20 reported rapes in Britain ends in a conviction.
In a 2005 survey by Amnesty International, only one third of the British public believed that if a woman has been drinking then she is wholly or partially to blame for their own rape. The Reclaim the Night marches are organised to give women one night when they can feel safe to walk the streets of their own city at night.
The female-only procession marched from Whitehall Place to the Camden Centre in Kings Cross, where they gathered for an energetic and powerful rally. Amidst singing, chanting, shouting and dancing, women of all ages and ethnicities called for their human right to live in a society free from sexual violence and rape.
Students from Goldsmiths college in New Cross marched behind a large banner chanting: “Whatever we wear! Wherever we go! Yes means yes and no means no!”
“Equality between women and men will never be realised as long as violence against women remains”, said Dr Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society. “It is up to individuals to speak out and create a better world”.
Finn Mackay, the organiser of the event was awarded the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize for her individual contribution to the national feminist agenda.
This annual award is named after Emma Humphreys, whose case changed the law for battered women who kill, and is given to a woman who, through writing or campaigning, has raised awareness of violence against women and children.
Mackay roused the crowd with a passionate speech she and told the women that: “This is a great time to be a feminist”.
The UK’s first Reclaim the Night march took place in Leeds in 1977 as a reaction to the rape and murder of thirteen women across Yorkshire by Peter Sutcliffe. This was the seventh march to take place in London.
The peaceful and good humoured rally was overseen by an entirely female police force and there was no animosity between the two groups. Abi Gilddon , 26 from Lewisham said: “It is really good to see the police finally getting it right.”