Why is Reclaim the Night Important?
CN: Mentions of sexual violence, police violence and murder.
Reclaim the Night has existed in one form or another since the 1970s, and has an international history. In the UK they first took place in November 1977; as marches in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, London and many other cities were held in response to a series of murders of sex workers in and around Leeds by a man called Peter Sutcliffe. Feminists in the area were angry that the police response to these murders was slow and that the press barely reported on them. It seemed that it was only when young student women began to fall victim to this serial killer that the police started to take the situation seriously.
The police response to the murders was to was to warn all women not to go out at night. This was not a helpful suggestion for any woman. Feminists and a variety of women’s and student groups responded by organising a resistance of torch-lit marches and demonstrations — they walked in their hundreds through the city streets at night to highlight that they should be able to walk anywhere and that they should not be blamed or restricted because of male violence. The marches highlighted the inadequacies of the male institutions which claimed to protect women. Women instead took their safety into their own hands and showed the power of women as a collective.
But what is Reclaim the Night?
An annual march that takes place in Cambridge and other places across the country.
A night intended to reclaim bodily autonomy and space that is often stolen from us by gendered and sexual violence.
An act of solidarity, empowerment and inclusivity, and a night to walk the streets without fear of persecution.
The Reclaim the Night march is organised annually by Cambridge SU and ARU Students' Union to protest violence against women and assert our right to public space at night. Reclaim the Night marches have a 50 year history within Women’s Liberation movements, and the Cambridge event has been running for over a decade. The march provides a space for women from across the community to come together in solidarity with one another and against the systems of power and patriarchy that oppress us.
Why do we still need Reclaim the Night?
Over the years the marches evolved to focus on rape and male violence generally, giving women one night when they could feel safe to walk the streets of their own towns and cities.
Today we walk for the same reasons. Because we still have not got these rights; because women are still blamed for rape and male violence. Women people still experience sexual violence walking the streets, and they still cannot trust the police to protect them. The events of the last year have only made this more prominent, with the brutal police response to the Clapham Common vigil after the murder of Sarah Everard and the failure to act on the murder of Sabina Nessa involving many more in movements for a just response to sexual violence.
Cambridge Reclaim the Night
Cambridge SU has collaborated with Anglia Ruskin SU to create a more community focussed event, recognising that all women and non-binary people in our city experience the effects of sexual violence. All women and non-binary people are welcome, and can bring children of all genders.
We are strongly committed to Reclaim the Night being inclusive of queer and trans people, and will take a firm stance against gender policing taking place at the march.