Fifty people gathered at Glen Innes Town Hall square on Thursday, October 25, to mark the global ‘Reclaim the Night’ movement to end violence against women and children.
Glen Innes organiser Brenda Beauchamp – backed by Glen Innes Severn Council’s Safe in Our Town committee and Family & Youth Support – led the march to raise awareness about violence women allegedly face every day.
“Let’s look towards growing and supporting this movement in years to come, so that our whole community can be free from violence,” Mayor Carol Sparks – who marched in the crowd – said.
Reclaim the Night (also known as Take Back the Night), a global women’s protest against men’s sexual violence, has been held in Australia each October since 1978.
Attendees march against violence, because they believe everyone has the right to feel and to BE safe, and to honour victims of violence.
“It developed out of the need for women to challenge all forms of violence perpetrated against them, and the culture that permits this violence,” the Reclaim the Night Sydney website said.
“Violence affects women in all areas of their life. There is nowhere we can feel ownership of a space, or immunity from the sexual, physical, and other types of violence that society permits.”
Participants assembled in ANZAC Park to hear speakers emphasize the urgent need for women and children to be safe wherever they were.
Marchers heard that 58 Australian women have been murdered so far in 2018 – in some cases, just walking their dog or going to their local shops.
Speakers claimed that community attitudes needed to be changed, so that such crimes were not forgotten or accepted as a mere "risk" of being out of doors.
"I congratulate and thank the women, men and children who showed their support for Reclaim the Night in 2018," Mayor Sparks said.
"Community groups like Safe in Our Town and the Community Centre play a vital role in building support and strategies to keep women and children safe from violence.
“It's important that Council and the NSW government continue to work together so that their strategies meet with success."
The Aboriginal Health Service and Anglicare also supported the event. Marchers enjoyed a sausage sizzle provided by Campbell's Butchery.
"Full credit to Brenda Beauchamp and Laurie Newsome for arranging such a successful event,” Mayor Sparks said, “and thanks to Anglicare and to Greg Strong from the Aboriginal Health Service for their participation.”
The Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group held the first Reclaim the Night marches, in 1977, as a response to the Yorkshire Ripper Murders and police warnings to women to avoid public spaces after dark. The group was inspired by the German “Take Back the Night” marches earlier that year.
The marches soon spread around the world, with rallies in Rome (1977), Bombay, Aix-en-Provence, and Dublin (all 1978) protesting against gang-rape, intimidation, and violence against women. More than 5000 women from around America walked through San Francisco’s red light district in 1978.
Similar events were held in Sydney and Perth that year, drawing attention to the rights of Aboriginal and migrant women.
Later events in this country protested about abortion, contraception, and government cuts to child-care, education, health, and welfare.
Some praised the early Reclaim the Night marches for calling out abuses against women, and fighting for women to be able to walk alone at night without fear.
Other attendees criticized the more radical, separatist marchers for “hissing and swearing at innocent male bystanders”, shouting slogans like “Death to Rapists” and “Castrate Men”, and carrying signs reading “No Curfew on Women – Curfew on Men”.
From the late 1990s, the separatist stance of the marches was dropped, with men first allowed to attend rallies, then march with the women.
Reclaim the Night has taken on new impetus with the #MeToo movement.