Reclaim the Night has its historic roots in the 1970’s, where the first march occurred in Leeds to demand a woman’s right to walk the streets safely at night. The Reclaim the Night website states writes, “In every sphere of life we negotiate the threat or reality of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. We cannot claim equal citizenship while this threat restricts our lives as it does. We demand the right to use public space without fear. We demand this right as a civil liberty, we demand this as a human right.” Since the initial march, it has grown into a global issue, with 100s of marches internationally taking place around November 25th, and marks the beginning of the 16 days of Activism spanning from International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
This year’s fifth Reclaim the Night march in St Andrews was preceded by a day of activities centred around not only the issue of gender-based violence, but also of empowerment and education. There were multiple different societies involved in addition to the Feminist Society, including Nightline, Her Choice, Women in Work, He for She, Got Consent, Amnesty St Andrews, Saints LGBT, Sexpression, and Wellbeing. Activities included sign-making, banner-signing, a bake sale raising funds for Rape Crisis Scotland, information on reproductive health services in Fife, a Sexpression workshop on pleasure, a Got Consent workshop, letter writing with Amnesty International, a talk with White Ribbon Scotland on Men’s involvement and commitment in ending this issue, and a performance by The Accidentals. Despite the heavy rain and wind, the march began from the Union to St Mary’s quad, where a vigil was held, including a speaker from Fife Women’s Aid.
The march in St Andrews has come under attack before, with some claiming that it is unnecessary. With statistics such as 1 in 3 students facing a form of sexual assault, and 97% of these students not reporting their assault to the university, gender-based violence on universities must be addressed further. The march comes in conjunction with a petition calling for the University to do more when it comes to addressing sexual assault in St Andrews. The march serves as both an important indicator to the University that the student body is engaged and concerned with this issue in addition to being a show of solidarity. In the #MeToo moment, more and more people are increasingly involved in the fight against gender-based violence. We believe now is the time in which real change can be enacted, and are so grateful to those who stood with us during Reclaim the Night.