Students and supporters take to the streets to protest gender-based violence in Scotland.
On Saturday 25 November, University of Edinburgh students and members of the public joined forces and combined spirits to march from Teviot Row House to Grassmarket in protest against entrenched sexual and physical violence against women and nonbinary individuals.
The march was organised by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Women’s Liberation Campaign, in collaboration with the NUS Scotland Women’s Campaign and Heriot Watt’s Women’s Group.
Kathryn Pearson, the Students’ Association’s Women’s Officer, spoke to The Student about the aims and purposes of the night: “We’re here on mass to say no to single acts of violence, but also the culture in which it exists, such as victim-blaming, slut-shaming and rape culture. We’re also here to demand more funding for support services for survivors”.
This culture of violence is pertinent in Scotland, with 1692 cases of rape reported to Police Scotland between 2015 and 2016. The march, alongside the ongoing efforts of the Women’s Liberation Movement, highlight the issue as an important and pressing matter to the student body.
Many first year students from the University of Edinburgh attended the march to show their support and solidarity for the campaign. There appeared a general consensus amongst marchers that Edinburgh is a relatively safe city to live in as a young female student, however issues of sexual harassment remain constant in university life.
First year English literature student, Isabella Taylor, told The Student, “I feel that, in general, being in Edinburgh is the safest I’ve felt in a city. But it’s not perfect. There are a lot of issues such as catcalling and ‘appraising’ looks that can make young women feel very uncomfortable”.
First year psychology student, Claire Pimblett, who also attended the march, shared her experience of student life as a woman in Edinburgh. “I think your expectations of Edinburgh are generally that it is really safe, but I have been in a surprising number of situations since being here where that has not been the case. Because Edinburgh is generally seen as a safe city, a lot of small uncomfortable situations are often ignored”.
International relations student, Maddie Lloyd, spoke to The Student about a range of disconcerting experiences for women common on nights out in Edinburgh.
“I find that if it’s in clubs where the idea of consent becomes muddled or ignored, guys will approach girls aggressively – grind on them, grab their waists, pinch their butts – without any verbal or physical positive indicators from the girl.”
Fight for the Night was timed to coincide with the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The UN describes violence against women and girls as, “one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today”.
Image: Edinburgh University Students’ Association