Reclaim The Day #ReclaimTheNight 2016

I’m proud to be reading at #ReclaimtheNight in Sheffield next Friday (25 Nov). We need this event now more than ever, especially in the dangerous political context in which we are now living.

The shocking triumph of Donald Trump last week clearly shows that widespread and popular chauvinism and xenophobia are alive and kicking. Personally speaking, given my own recent online experiences of misogynist abuse and the threatening, sexist and racist abuse experienced by several of my close friends and colleagues – it seems that we should be calling loudly to #ReclaimtheDay as well.

Domestically in the UK, there is plenty of research to show that the cuts made in the name of austerity continue to affect women more than men. The widespread privatisation of public services have not only hit women significantly more than men, but have impacted massively disproportionately on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals  and communities. One of the findings of the Lammy Review,  published yesterday (Weds 16 Nov) was that black women are twice as likely to be sent to prison than white women for equivalent offences. To quote, “for every 100 white women given a prison sentence for a drug offence, 227 black women were sent to prison“.

The most vulnerable have unquestionably been hit the hardest. The Howard League have reported how Chris Grayling’s privatisation of the probation service has been catastrophic for women, calling for something ‘to be done urgently to change the system to protect women’. The ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ overhaul of probation split the probation service in two, with a new National Probation Service managing high risk offenders and everything else (c. 70% of business) including the management of low and medium risk offenders has been outsourced to new providers who are known as Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). There is no obligation on these new CRC’s to fund Women’s Centre’s or women only services. One of the roles of the Probation Service has been to provide victim protection – particularly to victims of domestic violence – but the recent changes have significantly affected its ability to do this.

The Government cuts to Refuge and other domestic violence services have also been lethal for women. Rape crisis services are under serious threat. The EveryDay Sexism Project continues to burst at the seams.

Historically, Reclaim the Night marches started in the 1970s, when women took to the streets to protest after being told by the police that they should stay home after dark if they wanted to protect themselves from the Yorkshire Ripper who was murdering women in and around Leeds. Today victim blaming continues and women are still told to restrict their freedoms in order to be avoid being harassed and attacked.

Today, I am sure that #ReclaimingTheNight in our current context makes no sense unless we acknowledge that there is no equality for women without racial equality. There is no racial equality without economic equality. That we have to come together and think of new ways to fight hard for this in contexts so dominated by hate, racism, xenophobia and misogyny.

The #Reclaim the Night March in Sheffield is open to “anyone who defines as a woman… identifies as non-binary and/or experiences discrimination because of being perceived as female (the march is also be open to male carers and dependents)”. The rally is “open to all genders”.

Sheffield Reclaim The Night. Friday 25 November 2016

6:30 Assembly @Sheffield Cathedral, 7:30 Rally @Coffee Revolution.

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