The night will end on a celebratory note with a party at the Wee Red Bar, Lauriston Place. The march comes at a time when the issue of violence against women is very much at the fore in Scotland. Reclaim the Night takes place on the same day as the launch of a new National rape and sexual assault helpline for women, run by Rape Crisis Scotland, which will offer support and info to female survivors of sexual violence 365 days a year.
Despite improvements in funding for rape crisis centres, research conducted in 2007 by the Scottish Executive showed that 1 in 5 people thought that women were in some way responsible for rape if they were flirting, drunk or wearing a short skirt. With attitudes such as these, it is easy to see why convictions for rape have reached an all time low, with only 3.9% of reported rapes in Scotland resulting in a conviction, this is the lowest in Europe. Though the Scottish Government should be congratulated for their support of Rape Crisis centres, more action is needed to challenge the damaging attitudes brought to light by this research, and more generally, a culture in which sexual violence is accepted and ignored.
The relevance of Reclaim the Night is explained by Ellie Hutchinson, one of the organisers of the march; “Reclaim The Night is not just about taking a stand on behalf of rape survivors, but also about highlighting the way that rape affects all women. Fear of rape and sexual assault is something that restricts the behaviour and movement of women. The powerful visual impact of local communities marching together through the streets of Edinburgh, is needed more than ever” Many women fear some unknown attacker, and will ask a male friend to walk them home at night, despite being far more likely to be raped by someone she knows, in her own home.
“I’m a naturally confident person, but always find myself looking over my shoulder if I walk home alone late at night, even though in my head I know the risks are small” Liz Ely, member of Edinburgh Feminist Network. It is in light of these shared experiences, that the Edinburgh Feminist Network has come together in the global tradition of Reclaim (or Take Back) the Night marches.
A group of young women, who meet weekly in Edinburgh, tired of attitudes which sanction rape and sexual violence, have come together to organise Reclaim the Night. The group will remain active within Edinburgh, and organise other awareness raising events throughout the year. “We believe that ‘feminism is the radical notion that women are people’ and that freedom of movement is a universal human right. Reclaim the night is about taking back this basic right, challenging oppressive attitudes and sending a message to all survivors of sexual violence, that they can speak out, they are not alone.” Ellie
Ellie Hutchinson rejected the notion that feminism is unnecessary or a thing of the past, and joined together with other women to form the Edinburgh Feminist Network. Through the Internet and various social networking sites such as Facebook, women from all sorts of backgrounds found out about the group and began coming to meetings. Growing in number week by week, the Edinburgh Feminist Network is part of an exciting trend of a new generation of women taking back feminism for themselves, rejecting tired stereotypes and participating in collective action.
“The Edinburgh Feminist Network, or collective, is a wonderful opportunity to work with like minded people, and put beliefs into practice. It’s also a great way to meet people and have a lot of fun, without having to continually justify your political beliefs” Liz Ely
The Edinburgh Feminist Network is keen for Reclaim the Night to reach out to as many people in Edinburgh as possible, and bring feminism and its ideas to a new audience. They are inviting all Edinburgh residents and visitors to gather in Festival Square at 7:30pm to march, or come at 6:30pm to the Cornerstone Café to congregate and make banners. EFN is keen to engage everyone, including men, so a Men’s Discussion Group will take place in the Wash Bar from 6:30pm, where men can meet and discuss their contribution to ending violence against women. During the march itself, men are invited to march at the back, with women taking the lead. The march will end at the Meadows with a rally, with speakers from the Edinburgh Feminist Network, Rape Crisis Scotland, and Scotland’s White Ribbon Campaign. As part of rejecting the notion that feminism is humourless and dry, the evening will end with a party at the Wee Red Bar.
6:30pm Pre-march gathering and banner making at Cornerstone café (St John’s Church, Lothian Road).
6:30pm Men’s Discussion Group chaired by Iain Wallace from the White Ribbon Campaign at The Wash Bar, North Bank Street, Edinburgh. This will be a space for men to have discussions around what they can do to end violence against women. Afterwards, men from the discussion group can join the march when it reaches The Mound.
7:30pm Set off from Festival Square on Lothian Road. The march is being lead by Commotion Women Drummers, with women taking the lead and men following. March to the Meadows via Lothian Rd, Princes Street, The Mound, North Bridge, Bristo Place, and Teviot Place.
9pm Rally and speakers in the Meadows, an area where a lot of women and men are apprehensive about going after dark. The march and subsequent rally aims to reclaim this space for us all.
10.15pm Join us at The Wee Red Bar to dance and celebrate the success of the march at the Reclaim the Night after party. Entry £2.