The Reclaim the Night march has been defined as “marches, which protested the right of all women to have the freedom to go where they wanted without having to restrict their movements to accommodate the threat of sexual violence”.
The movement originated in the 1970s. Peter Sutcliffe was murdering women and this led to women in Leeds being told by police to stay home during the hours of darkness.
The suggestion that women should stay indoors to protect themselves, rather than control the behaviours of dangerous men enraged women and feminist groups throughout the country. Women were expected to limit themselves in public space and hide from men, as it was believed that if they were to go out at night, then they were making themselves vulnerable to attack.
Reclaim the Night is an important and fundamental part of modern Feminism. It is a movement which gives women a chance to voice their opinions and fears, whilst also showing the rest of society that there are problems and there is continuous fight to resolve them.
The first Reclaim the Night-style march is said to have taken place in Scotland in October 1977, and then the first that bore the name took place in Leeds, later that year.
The issues surrounding gender equality that existed in the 1970s still exist today, and it seems that society still has failings when it comes to progressive attitudes and behaviours surrounding the lives of women. In any other criminal case, the perpetrator is the one who is immediately blamed, not victim; however in cases of rape and sexual assault the victim is always expected to carry the burden of blame. A study conducted by the Scottish Government in 2007 found that 32% of participants agreed that if a woman is intoxicated or out alone at night, she must take partial blame for her attack. Reclaim the Night sends the message that this is not okay; violent men are the issue, not women exercising their right of free will and liberty. Violent men should be challenged, not women who are simply trying to have a safe and free existence. Liberty is for all, not just those who feel safe at night.
“Today we march, as so many women have done before us to say that we are never to blame for rape and male violence. Those men who choose to commit these crimes are to blame. We march today to demand our right to live without the fear or reality of rape and male violence, we demand an end to male violence against women, we take back this night to win the day”– London Feminist Network
This an abridged piece taken from an article written by Becca Sweeney, an Amina MWRC volunteer. The full article can be read here: liberty-is-for-all