Women hold a Banner reading "We Want to Live"

International Women’s Day March Calls Out Institutions Failing Women

Coming just over one year after the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, last night’s International Women’s Day march in Bristol called out the institutions that continue to fail women. 

Beginning at 6pm on College Green yesterday (March 8), around 150 people marched first to Bridewell police station, then the family courts at Bristol Magistrates Court, and finally to Pryzm nightclub. 

Jess Jones, of the Bristol Feminist Collective, who organised the march, said ‘Women are being failed. The government, the police, the courts, the places we work and socialise and study – they are all failing us. We must stand up and protect ourselves and find our own solutions to bring an end to violence against women.’ 

A woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK and one in four women have experienced domestic violence. Data for trans women is harder to acquire due to a lack of reporting standards, but data from Stonewall suggest as many as 40% of trans women have been the victim of a hate crime. 

Protesters at yesterday’s march. Image: James Ward.

At each location along yesterday’s march route, organisers read out a series of charges against the institution and a set of demands. The family courts were charged with “colluding with abusers” and demands were made for greater transparency and financial support for victims of domestic abuse who, organisers said. can be re-traumatised by the court process. 

Pryzm meanwhile was accused of not doing enough to protect women from sexual assault and spiking. Organisers said that instead women were being charged for “anti-spiking lids” for their drinks. A message to the club’s manager said: “Tell us how you’ll step up and prevent this from happening.”

Data from Avon and Somerset Police shows that between May 2018 and May 2020 Pryzm had the highest rate of sexuall assaults of any nighttime venue in Bristol. Notably, the number is five times higher than at Urban Tiger, a sexual entertainment venue currently facing closure by Bristol City Council. 

When the march left each location, a banner was tied to the doors or gates. At Bridewell a banner read “Police Are the Perpetrators”, at the courts it said “Family Court Colludes With Abusers”, and at Pryzm a banner was left saying “Pryzm Predator Party”.

As the march ended outside Pryzm, an open mic was held in which attendees shared stories of sexual assault they have faced and shared gratitude for events like the one last night for bringing people together. 

Amongst the crowd were Frida and Camila, two women originally from Mexico and part of a large Hispanic contingent in last night’s protest.

Speaking to The Bristol Activist, Frida said that she left Mexico the come to the UK for a better life, saying that in Mexico women like her cannot even wear shorts for fear of sexual assualt by men. The United Nations ranks Mexico as the one of the  worst country in the world for violence against women, with two thirds of women aged 15 or over having been a victim of violence. 

Camila added that in Mexico feminism is seen as a joke, with even her own family mocking her for trying to speak against male violence. 

Although the situation is better in the UK, Frida said “it’s sad to find the same issues here.”

Two women stand with raised fists.
Frida (L) and Camila (R) at yesterday’s march. Image: James Ward.

The Bristol protest coincided with Women’s Strike and Sisters Uncut demonstrations taking place in London, Liverpool, Plymouth, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

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