Thousands of men, women and families are set to take the streets of Sydney next Friday on October 31 to rally against all forms of violence against women.
The three main issues targeted in this year’s Reclaim the Night include gendered violence, the ramifications of rising Islamophobia against women and the closure of women’s refuges in NSW.
Held annually since 1978, Reclaim the Night, also known as Take Back the Night, is an annual international event which actively campaigns against all forms of violence against women.
The event will begin with a rally featuring Maha Abdo, the executive officer of the United Muslim Women’s Association, Ryan Cole, secretary on the executive board of Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) and university student Summer Lea, a campaigner against the closure of women’s refuges in NSW.
Co-convenor of Reclaim the Night 2014 Alisha-Aitken Radburn said it was a crucial time for Australians to make their voices heard and promote the culture that they want to live in.
“The rate of domestic violence in NSW is at the highest recorded level in 12 years and NSW Police are dealing with over 370 instances of domestic and family violence each day.”
“We can make a difference, but we need to do it together. It is annual events like Reclaim the Night that give us the opportunity to define what society we want to live in,” she said.
One in five women in Australia will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, according to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre. Seventy percent of victims know their attacker while many others will experience assault.
Jamie Parker, Greens MP for Balmain, said women have the right to reclaim their spaces – whether it’s on the streets, in homes, online or in workplaces.
“Reclaim the Night is an important and powerful way to challenge the patriarchy, racism and to highlight the disgraceful women’s specialist services reforms of the NSW Liberal Government,” he said.
Summer Lea, a Sydney University student who plans to speak about her experience living in a women’s refuge, says the event is also about engaging people outside the political sphere to raise awareness and place political pressure on the government to bring about change.
“I want to challenge stigmas attached to people who are homeless or have suffered from abuse. If it wasn’t for the women’s refuges I would have fallen apart – they have allowed me to learn how to cope with the world around me. It is atrocious to see the government shut down the safety net of social welfare that provides a safe place in which women can rebuild their lives,” she said.
Reclaim the Night hopes to continue to challenge the existence of violent attitudes and behaviours displayed towards women in institutions. This extends across representations of violence in popular media, particularly the ramifications of rising Islamophobia for women as politicians debated whether or not to ban the burqa.
Sydney’s Reclaim the Night march will be held on Friday October 31 at 6.30pm in Hyde Park North.