I’m writing this during the #16Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. It’s an internationally recognised day, led by the UN Women, in which organisations and people come together to shine a spotlight on the global epidemic of male violence and, crucially, highlight what is being done – and can be done – to tackle this.
Locally, Bristol Women’s Commission has been sharing posts across its social media channels from leaders across the city, including Marvin, to illustrate what they’re doing to tackle male violence.
A time for reflection
This is also a time to remember all those women (85 already this year and on average one woman every three days) that are killed at the hands of a man. A moment to feel the full weight and exhaustion of living in a world with the palpable ongoing threat of male violence and relentless everyday sexism that so many of us endure.
Next Link, who I work with on the Women’s Safety Task Group run a candle lit vigil campaign in honour of this, which this year included an in-person vigil as well as online action.
But it is also a day that we hear women and allies roar and rage against this epidemic of male violence!
We have had enough of women being given rape alarms and drink covers, being asked why they didn’t leave violent partners, and told to walk in pairs. It doesn’t work. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
The time has come for a new approach. For a serious look at the inherent sexism and misogyny embedded in so many of the institutions and systems that repeatedly let women down, and keep us feeling unsafe.
A time for action
This 16 Days of Activism we are asking, if you could magically change one thing today, what would it be?
Would it be a root and branch reform of the criminal justice system, a justice system that has effectively decriminalised rape and sexual abuse. We know only 1% of rape cases result in prosecution.
Would it be better education ensuring that consent, health relationships and the impact of misogyny/ rape culture is taught in every classroom across the country.
Would it be sustainable funding for the sexual and domestic abuse sectors? Sectors that have seen increases in demands for support of over 40% since the Covid-19 pandemic without the necessary funding to meet this.
Or would it be that campaigns focus on perpetrators changing their behaviours rather than women being told to constantly moderate theirs?! Like the recent and brilliant Never Have I Ever campaign from Bristol students, to tackle sexist culture/male entitlement?
The time is now
There are things you can actively do to support a change now:
- Contact your local MP and councillors to ask them what they’re doing to tackle gender-based violence. If MP’s get enough contact on one issue, they may ask a question around it in parliament or look at shaping legislation.
Check out what politicians and candidates had to say about this when Bristol Women’s Commission asked them exactly this, here.
- Sign or start petitions on issues you care about – it might not feel like much, but petitions listed on the government website that get 10k signatures, will receive a response from the government. At 100k signatures, it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.
- Go to a local protest march e.g. Reclaim the Night. It’s a good way of feeling less alone and finding like-minded people who share your passion for social justice.
- Find out more about gender-based violence – such as sexual violence and domestic abuse; and share campaigns by organisations that are tackling Violence Against Women & Girls.
- Ask local schools what they are doing to ensure that children are receiving quality education by experts around consent, sex and healthy relationships.
- Consider volunteering or donating funds to your local Rape Crisis Centre/Refuge and other charities that support women.
Voscur’s website (the voluntary sector umbrella organisation also part of the Women’s Commission) is a good place to find volunteering opportunities.
As the brilliant Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project says in her new book, it’s time to ‘Fix the system, not the women’.