Manchester students organise to Reclaim the Night with a neon parade

Article published: Friday, February 15th 2013

Manchester will once more add to a 32-year tradition of Reclaim the Night marches in the UK on Thursday 21 February, allowing women of all ages to walk their own streets in safety.

Reclaim the nightThe march will aim to highlight the problems of street harassment, sexual assault and rape on Manchester’s streets by creating “a women’s-only block, open to all self defining women, and followed by a mixed march open to all genders”.

An after party will follow the march, with performances from female artists such as Misha B and SHE choir, with all profits from the event going to charity.

The danger of apathy

The Crime Survey for England and Wales recorded nearly 52,000 reports of sexual violence in the period between October 2011 and September 2012, with many other instances going unreported to the police.

The importance of raising awareness of violence towards women is highlighted by Amnesty International who see the problem as a global one, in danger of becoming a normalised and therefore forgotten struggle.

“Virtually every culture in the world contains forms of violence against women that are nearly invisible because they are seen as ‘normal’”, reports the NGO.

They continue, “Even in countries where laws criminalise violence against women, tolerance of violence may be found at all levels of society.”

University of Manchester Students Union Women’s Officer Tabz O’Brien Butcher added, “Recent events in India have served as a grave reminder of the danger of apathy towards the issue of violence against women. Reclaim the Night seeks to put the issue of women’s safety back on the national political agenda.”

The march focuses on women in particular, and for good reason, as government statistics show gender as a “key factor related to the risk of sexual offence victimisation, with the majority of victims being female.”

Cuts to services

Another worry for campaigners is that of funding cuts for services that provide support for women who have experienced violence.

The campaign group Go Feminist urge people to join their campaign to safeguard funding, stating that “violence against women services have been cut so much already. What remains must be safeguarded.”

They go on to stress the campaign’s importance in the current climate. “Times of economic difficulty and recession are associated with increased incidence of domestic violence.

“A report last year found that incidents of domestic violence increased 17 per cent over the recession.”

A Reclaim the Night organiser commented on the issue, “Violence against women is one of the most complex and challenging issues in the UK today, and government cuts to rape crisis centres, refuges and services for at-risk women are having a devastating impact.”

With a reduction of funding to services that prevent violence against women from 7.8m to 5.4m between 2010 and 2012, the march to raise awareness comes at a critical time for the sector.

Katy Tolman

The march starts at 7pm on Thursday 21 February from Owens’ Park, Fallowfield, M14 6HD. The march will be free of charge.

Tickets for the after party cost £3 in advance or £5 on the door. For more information visit www.manchesterstudentsunion.com/reclaimthenight

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