“Violence against women is everybody’s business, and it has to stop!” proclaimed Margarita Windisch, one of the speakers at the Reclaim the Night march in Melbourne on October 20. One determined heckler from the crowd could not stop her as she passionately defended the rights of women and children and “played the gender card” proudly for women everywhere who have been “forced into this gender game”.
Clementine Ford spoke about all the stupid advice being thrust at women in the aftermath of the murder of Jill Meagher: “How women should protect themselves, why women should protect themselves, how they need to keep their wits about them. Dress sensibly, drink sensibly. How it’s a dangerous world out there and we need to understand that there are predators in it.”
All of this “advice” puts the responsibility for avoiding sexual assault back on the woman. It implies that if a woman does get raped or assaulted, then she did something wrong or did not do enough to protect herself. These attitudes are still widely engrained in Australian society. A popular chant at the rally was: “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Victim blaming has got to go.”
Windisch also shared the results from a recently released study into sexual assault against women, conducted over four decades in more than 70 countries. She said the study found: “It’s not more women politicians, left-wing governments, or the wealth of a country [that determines the prevalence of rape and sexual assault]. It is the mobilisation of the feminist movement that will bring us change.”
She encouraged all those listening to work towards building big International Women’s Day protests next year to focus on equal pay between men and women and for greater support for victims of sexual or physical assault.
At least 3000 people attended the rally. Women, men and children joined together to stand against gender inequality and make it clear that violence against women is not acceptable. Those who had taken part in previous Reclaim the Night marches commented that this year’s march is the largest for more than a decade.
[The Socialist Alliance will host a forum titled “Sexism, Violence & the Fight for Women’s Rights at 2pm, November 3 at the Melbourne Resistance Centre, Level 5, 407 Swanston Street, city (opposite RMIT). For details email Melbourne@greenleft.org.au or call 03 9639 8622.]