Last weekend, estimates suggest that up to 5,000 people took to the streets in London for the latest ‘Slutwalk’.
The Slutwalk protest movement was inadvertantly started by a Canadian policeman who advised female students to “avoid dressing like sluts” if they wanted to avoid being raped or victimised. So incensed were the students listening that they responded by dressing like “sluts” – a derogatory term that refers to women who are promiscuous -and taking their protest to the streets.
In this moment, the “Slutwalk” movement was born.
Since then, thousands of people in other parts of the world have taken to the streets to show their solidarity and to highlight how we live in a culture where the victim, rather than the abuser, is blamed. Some of those marching were reported as saying that they were supporting the protest because women today experience double standards: being under pressure to look sexy but at the same time expected to live chaste lives. Others highlighted the recent comments made by the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke about how some rapes were apparently not as serious as evidence of why the ‘Slutwalk’ is necessary in the UK.
It was interesting that a week before in the capital, the Muslim women’s organisation Inspire was launching its ‘Jihad Against Violence’. As the declaration of jihad stated:
“…we are alarmed that up to 3 million women and girls across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, trafficking, female genital mutilation or other violence each year. We believe such violence destroys the ability of women to thrive within their families, communities and nations. Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace…We can no longer remain silent in the face of such injustice; we must take a proactive stance in reclaiming the rights and dignity of women and girls”
Whilst Inspire approach the subject from a completely different perspective – by confronting those Muslim men who propagate the false idea that violence against women is a “God-given right for men” based on misinterpretations of the Qur’an – there is some clear resonance between the Jihad and the Slutwalk. Both, essentially, are campaigning for women to be treated with respect, dignity and equality and not to be subjected to violence and abuse.
In Britain 2011 it wouldn’t seem that this would be too much to ask. In fact, none of us should even need to ask: these basic rights for women – irrespective of what woman that is – should be a given.
Sadly, this is not the case.
Some men continue to think that they can – whether reasoned or justified theologically, socially, culturally or whatever – treat women as second class citizens, where oppression, domination and by consequence violence, abuse and in the more extreme instances rape, are deemed acceptable.
This cannot be so.
Because of this, and until things chance, so the need to support those women who are behind both the jihad and the Slutwalk will continue to be necessary.