Protecting our rights requires vigilance and protest

By Kerry Abel

After the tragic death of Sarah Everard, many women in south London and around the country felt compelled to mark their respects and their anger against male violence over the weekend. The protesters were angry and tired. We know the feeling of being afraid and we understand that the micro-aggressions and sexism we experience are deeply ingrained in our society.

The right to control our body is fundamental and it influences how we move through society. Recent news reports have highlighted the low rate of rape convictions compared to reports to police – and we also know that many cases of sexual assault and rape are not reported to the police.

Many others have written about the passive language that puts women at the centre – but omits the active role of men in male violence against women. We are angry because initial advice to women was that we should be the ones to stay indoors, not men who are the perpetrators of this intimidation and violence against women.

What’s more, the main suspect in the case against Sarah Everard was a police officer. Why should we be the ones to stay inside?

On Saturday, the police were inflammatory, irresponsible and heavy-handed. I called on Priti Patel to apologise for their actions, to carry out an investigation and to halt any new legislation that aims to increase the power of the police in such situations. 

In Clapham, witnesses have attested that the events were peaceful and observed social distancing; even the Duchess of Cambridge attended in person. It was clear that police waited until it was dark to use heavy-handed tactics on the protesters. This is in stark contrast to the way police treated Rangers’ football fans gathering in
numbers a few day before.

This was a forerunner to the proposals to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that passed its second reading this week. It is a Bill that seeks to restrict citizens’ ability to lawfully protest, and seeks to allow police increased powers to restrict the reasons for protest and the way they handle the events themselves; it has its roots in backlash to Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer.

In campaigning against this Bill, Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP pointed out that the sentence for pulling down a statue (10 years) is longer than that for rape (5 years). We need to change what we value in society.

We need to defend the right to protest because the situation for women is far from perfect. We know how governments can turn on us and take our rights away – just look at the demonstrations for even meagre abortion rights in Poland.

Sign to add your support against the Police Crackdown Bill, there is still time to defeat it.

The above article was originally published here by Abortion Rights.