Reclaim the Night

300 female students took to the streets to make a noise for a safer Cambridge on Saturday night.

CUSU feminists march protest reclaim the night

Take 300 shouting women, throw in a few placards and a route through Cambridge’s historic streets.

What lured them all away from the revision-steeped confines of college libraries, colour-coded flash cards and the promise of Dr Who on iplayer after a hard day’s work?

It was none other than Cambridge’s Reclaim the Night march, which on Saturday demanded safer streets and better lighting across the city.

Photo: Colin McSwiggen

Following waves of sexual assaults and murders, and having been told to stay in their homes to ensure their safety, women in their thousands first took to the streets to ‘Reclaim the Night’ in the 1970s.

40 years later, the message is the same; safety is the absence of the threat of violence, rather than finding the nearest lad from your College drinking society to walk you home from Cindies, via the Van of Death.

With an NUS study revealing that 1 in 7 (14%) female University or college students have been the victim of serious sexual assault or physical violence, and considering an estimated 47,000 rapes occur in the UK every year, there is a lot to shout about.

But, as shown by the recent attack on a male Queens’ undergrad by a group of 16-year-old Cambridge locals, safe streets is not just a women’s issue.

In recognition of this, Saturday’s ‘male solidarity demonstration’ pulled more men than the huge annual London march, and the candle-lit vigil at King’s College Chapel included as a speaker the Executive Director of White Ribbon Campaign UK, which lobbies men to condemn violence against women.

With the resurrection of the London march in 2004 and increasing numbers of rallies in other UK towns and cities, we are again starting to question the responsibility assigned to women subject to violence.

But, as the City Council remains reluctant to improve street lighting, the march is just a small step on the road to stopping night time violence against women and improving safety for both genders.