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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Women share experiences of harassment and feeling unsafe in Bradford at Reclaim the Night march

Men and women marched from the University of Bradford to City Park to ‘Reclaim the Night’ for women and girls to feel safe walking around the district in the dark.

Around 100 people marched in Bradford this evening calling for the city to be made safe for women and girls and to stop sexual and gender-based violence.

The march started outside Richmond Building at the University of Bradford marching to City Park and then back to the university.  It marked the end of 16 days of activism at the university and International Humanitarian Day.

The march was organised in a matter of days by Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of Bradford, Udy Archibong, in association with Bradford College and Bradford Hate Alliance after an onslaught of complaints of catcalling and harassment from passing cars were reported to the university by female students and members of staff.

Professor Udy Archibong organised the walk.

Since students returned to campus following almost two academic years of online learning, reports of harassment have increased, said Academic Registrar, Nikki Pierce.

As we marched down Great Horton Road, I witnessed this myself, as a man in the passenger side of a white Seat heckled us as we passed, laughing with the driver of the car.

Reclaim the Night marches started in the 1970s in Britain in cities such as Leeds, Manchester, and Bristol. The marches became even more significant when in years following, The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, began murdering sex workers in Leeds.

Feminists were angry that the murders carried out by Mr Sutcliffe were only taken seriously when a young student was murdered, and the police advised women not to go out at night as a response.  Angered by this, women organised demonstrations across different cities to highlight the fact that women should be able to walk anywhere at any time and should not be blamed or restricted because of male violence.

Forty years later, women are still experiencing the same sort of treatment by men on the streets, and response from the police. Professor Udy Archibong has been a victim of harassment on Great Horton Road, herself.

Speaking at the event, Prof Archibong divulged: We know that one in three women and girls experience violence during their lifetime, but why? Why is it happening in Bradford?

Around 100 people attended the march.

“Great Horton Road and nearby streets are notorious for harassment towards staff, students, and members of the community, particularly women and non-binary people.

“On 6 May, four senior women, including myself, walked the streets around campus at night to have a feel for what our students feel daily. I kid you not, a car aimed at me, I was nearly killed. It was a frightening experience.

“We are here to reclaim our space, our streets, and our bodies, and to put an end to sexual and gender-based violence.”

Prof Archibong added: “This is a symbolic day, marking the end of the university’s 16 days of activism and the International Human Rights Day. We are taking a stand; we are here together to show our solidarity with those who are unable to walk freely at night.”

Other speakers included Cllr Aneela Ahmed, Yasmin Khan, the CEO of Staying Put UK, a charity that works to safeguard all victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, and senior lecturer in the Department of Media, Design and Technology and the Chair of the White Ribbon Board of Trustees, a charity engages with men and boys to end violence against women, among others.

Naimah Begum, a 21-year-old college student and her friend.

Naimah Begum, 21, from Bradford College is cautious when she goes out. As a woman who wears the hijab, she is often on the receiving end of intersectional hate, from being a woman, and being Muslim.

She said: “As a woman from an ethnic minority, harassment is just standard now.

“It shouldn’t be but you can’t walk two minutes without someone giving you a dirty look, having someone look down on you, because what? Because you are a woman, a woman wearing a hijab, a woman that is brown.

“There are so many factors at play but there shouldn’t be. There shouldn’t be a single that that affects us walking down the street at night. There have been so many occasions that out of pure paranoia, I’m looking up and down the street, checking if there is a man around – do I have to speed up, where is the closest place of safety? This shouldn’t be the only thing on my mind when I’m going out to meet friends when I’m going out to enjoy myself.

“It gets dark at 4pm, so that’s around 60% of the day that we have to fear. Sometimes I avoid going out. Having Asian parents, it is the norm. They tell us ‘don’t go out, it’s dark’, but on the days I do go out it is about am I wearing the right clothes? Am I layered enough that I don’t seem like a target? These thoughts are constant, they take over before I even step outside the house before 4pm.”

Miss Begum has felt unsafe on campus at Bradford College before but in general, it is safe most of the time. She added: “I do feel comforted that there is security around but even so when I’m leaving and it’s dark I get concerned.”

Zarghona Khan, a 23-year-old optometry student at the University of Bradford.

Zarghona Khan, 23, who is from Bradford and studying optometry at the university, attended the march to raise her voice about ending patriarchy in the district.

She said: “There are so many reasons why I came on the march tonight. We are seeing more women being victims of male violence. I think people think that this doesn’t exist in a Western country like Britain, but it does.

“Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa are recent cases that show violence against women will never end, as long as patriarchy exists. It will only stop if not only women but especially men will start to call out this behaviour in other men.

“The world has been around for millions of years, and we have so much crazy technology, but we are in the same situation with violence against women and women being inferior, when is this going to end?

“It is not just western countries but all around the world. Female genital mutilations or honour killings. It is crazy that these things still exist, and we all need to stand up about it. Everyone, from parents and children to teachers.”

Miss Khan also feels safe on campus but not walking around Bradford, especially on Great Horton Road. She added: “Great Horton Road is the road to university. It is the road to education. It should be a safe road, but it is one of the most unsafe roads in Bradford. I experience catcalling, sexist and racist abuse on the road often, it is degrading.”

Anthony Williams from community youth group 2TSHIRTGANG, said: “We’re here today to support the cause. It is such a problem around Bradford and probably across other areas as well. As male figures, and people from the community, we feel like we need to stand up and speak when something is not right.

“More men should be here. We need to protect our community and to stand up, listen and educate. Men are the perpetrators. We are the ones who are the problem, men should be down here listening to women, taking the information home, and educating the community – our kids and our families so this harassment ceases to continue.”

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