Marching against Rape Culture

International Socialist Organisation members joined over one thousand others in rallies across the country last weekend, protesting against rape and sexual violence. Members in Tamaki Makaurau report a lively and energetic, mostly young, crowd at that city’s demonstration. Many in the crowd were receptive to left-wing ideas and arguments: we distributed many hundreds of leaflets outlining our analysis of why misogyny is so rampant in this society, and sold around 85 copies of Socialist Review nationally.

Shomi Yoon reports from Poneke: “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no”.

This was the chant that boomed through the Wellington streets. Some 1000 protestors gathered against a culture that normalizes rape behaviour. The protest stopped outside the Wellington Central Police Station to express disgust at the way police have handled the “Roast busters” issue. Organiser Anne Russell said, that despite what the Police have to say about protecting society “It is clear to everyone here that the Police have no interest in ending rape culture or protecting rape victims”. She also pointed out the hypocrisy of Police stating that the only reason they failed to shut down the “Roastbusters” group due to lack of evidence:

“Some of the people here are members of the Uruwera 19, the police felt they could arrest people on evidence as flimsy as a text message which joked about catapulting a bus on to George Bush, this [Police inaction] is not about a lack of evidence. It is because they don’t care about rape.”

Other speeches also emphasised the fact that despite the outpouring of public anger at the actions of the “Roastbusters”; rape and the suffering that comes with it is an unexceptional occurrence in the society we live and, that the states lack of concern about slashing funding for rape crisis and other related public services illustrates “rape culture in action”.

ISO Poneke collected $250 for organizers to distribute to Rape Crisis and education group SAPPAN (joint project between Rape Crisis, Help, and STOP).

Darius Shahtahmasebi reports from Otepoti: On the 16th November 2013, a number of rallies were held across New Zealand calling for an end to the rape culture that is so prevalent in our society. I attended the Dunedin rally and I was reminded and informed of all the issues that come into play in this broader problem including workplace harassment, abuse by family members (including husbands, boyfriends, partners), stalking, a patriarchal culture and the current justice system, to name a few.

Other cultures are often demonised for their treatment of women, yet perhaps the reason rape culture has been allowed to prevail in New Zealand (“land of the Long White Cloud, beacon of human rights and model citizen of the international community”) is because rather than actively accepting that we have a problem and taking steps in the right direction to fix it we have been duped into thinking that this fantasy of an egalitarian and just society is indeed exactly what we are as a nation.

Here are some statistics to demonstrate that (a) we have a problem; and (b) this is a human problem and not one that pertains only to a particular religion or culture. In 2010 alone there were 3016 rapes and related offences reported to police, and in 2011 that number rose to 3466. This does not take into account the number of these crimes that go unreported which are undoubtedly much more frequent. The media surrounding these surveys were actually bold enough to suggest that the reason for the increase in these crime rates is because the crimes are being reported more often and not necessarily because the crimes have become more frequent. Women’s Refuge advances that one in three women experience physical or psychological abuse from their partners in their lifetime; 14 women a year are killed by a member of their family; and police are called to assist in 200 domestic violence situations a day. If you do not think New Zealand has a problem with the way women are being treated (openly or behind closed doors) then that would make you a further part of this problem.

As we have argued elsewhere, this latest outrage reveals deep social problems. What does all of this tell us about the current justice system? It tells us that justice for victims of rape has little to do with morality and everything to do with power and corruption. Even at the lowest levels of police ranks, if a complainant comes forward and is humiliated, misunderstood and blamed, it creates an extremely clear picture why so few people would (or even should) report these crimes. In the words of a speaker at the Dunedin rally today: “why should a victim be brave?” When the police misinform the public that no victim has been “brave enough”, why should we accept the lie or the fact that a victim has to be brave in the first place as good enough? Further police powers are obviously not a solution.

The second issue that must be addressed is pointing out that this is not merely an issue that pertains to authoritarian police roles but has a problem rooted deep into our society. The question goes beyond asking why is it that the “roastbusters” could not only do this for at least two years without police intervention, to asking why on earth did they think that this was okay in the first place?

The so-called “Roastbusters” were produced in a society which generates the kind of misogynist attitudes to women and sexuality that makes their actions thinkable. Obviously, mainstream movies, TV, music and music videos do not help with the kind of mentality that propagates a culture obsessed with sex as a form of power, and one that constantly derogatorily addresses women. It is clear that educating people, both young and old, regarding the issues and circumstances of rape needs to be more widespread and more effective as it clearly has not been given sufficient support or attention so far; young people are still growing up believing that rape in certain circumstances is okay. We need to stop perpetuating the taboo that surrounds this issue and bring it more forcefully into the open.

It was good to see rallies across the country today. There are further demands that can be made. Groups like Rape Crisis and Women’s Refuge must be fully funded and supported by the government. Money can always be found for civil-liberties eroding agreements – such as the TPPA – and to promote privatization; why then are there never enough funds for essential services? We want to make our society a safe one in which women can walk, drink, dance and work freely and without fear of either judgement or assault.

More images:

2013-11-16 14.11.31
Hundreds rally in Cuba Mall
2013-11-16 15.01.22
Wellington march arrives in Civic Square