Hundreds of people have turned out in Dundee to campaign against gender-based violence in this year’s Reclaim the Night march.
The event – which was held on Thursday evening – marks the start of 16 days of international activism on the issue.
It also coincides with International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2021.
Marchers met at Caird Hall to walk in solidarity through the city centre with the aim for women to “reclaim” the streets of Dundee so that they can walk at night without fear of assault or rape.
Katie Hardy-Jensen, manager of WRASAC, says the not-for-profit organisation continues to see a year-on-year increase in demand for its services.
‘This is not just a women’s issue’
Katie said: “This is not just a women’s issue, gender-based violence is an issue for everyone and that’s really one of the key things that we’re trying to get across tonight.
“Women are told our whole lives how we must prevent assault, how we prevent rape, how we alter our behaviour, how we don’t go out at night, we don’t walk on our own, we carry keys, we change all of these different things.
“And even though we do all these things and we alter our behaviour, it’s never enough.
“Women are still getting assaulted, still getting raped, we still get murdered and society keeps telling us it’s our fault.
“What we want is women to be free to go about their day-to-day life without the risk of assault and without the risk of rape.
“We’re asking for change, we’re asking for people to take this issue seriously and I think one of the keys things is we want men and boys to be engaged in this conversation.
“We’ve tried to make it family friendly, we’re tried to get everyone engaged in the conversation.”
How did the march start?
The first Reclaim the Night march in the UK was held in November 1977 when people in Leeds protested against the instructions from police for women to stay indoors and out of public spaces after dark during the ‘Yorkshire Ripper‘ murders.
Katie added: “When the Yorkshire Ripper hadn’t been caught by police at that point, the women were told to stay inside and again, the societal message that even though it’s men’s violence, it’s women who need to alter their behaviour.
“So tonight’s march is to say ‘enough is enough’.
“This isn’t about women taking over the world, this is about us being equal, being treated as equal, having equal rights and equal opportunities.”
‘I wanted to involve my whole family’
Louise Donnelly, a Dundee mum of three, is an advocacy worker at WRASAC and went along to the march with her family to rally against gender-based violence.
Louise said: “I wanted to involve my whole family because gender based violence is everybody’s issue, it’s not just for women and I really wanted my husband and my son to be there as well to show support at the march.”
Louise’s youngest children, Patrick, seven, and four-year-old Faith, made their own signs ahead of the march after learning about the issue.
Louise said: “They’re only little but it’s really important for their future.
“I sat them down yesterday and explained why we’re going, why it’s important and they asked some really cute questions.
“Explaining to them what the march was about was really useful because it enabled them to see that, just because my son is kind to girls doesn’t mean that everybody else is, and he has a part to play in that as well.
“After we’d spoken about it, my youngest daughter decided to write on her sign ‘keep me safe’ because we’d spoken about how the march was about reclaiming the streets so that women and girls are safe to go anywhere they want.
“After the conversation I’d had with my son about how, just because he’s nice and his dad’s nice, doesn’t mean that everybody else is kind to women, he came up with: ‘Don’t be bad, be like my dad’ and he was really chuffed because it rhymed as well.”
Louise says she is proud that the march has returned in Dundee as she sees the direct impact on the city’s communities, due to her line of work supporting victims of sexual violence.
She added: “It shows that there has been quite a momentous amount of change now in Dundee and a strong improvement now so it’s really exciting.”