The first Reclaim the Night marches in the UK were held across the country on 12 November, 1977. Co-ordinated by the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group, they were held as a gesture of collective action against rape and male sexual violence against women. This was of particular significance to women in the area because of the serial murders by Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, who sexually attacked and murdered 13 women across Yorkshire betweeen 1975 and 1980.
The police response to these murders was to advise women not to go out at night, effectively placing them under curfew with unhelpful advice that ignored the needs of women who – because of work demands – had no choice about whether or not to be out late at night.
Hundreds of women in the UK took to the streets on 12 November 1977 in protest. Their message was clear: women should be able to walk anywhere, and should not be blamed or restricted because of men’s violence.
Over the years, the marches have evolved to focus on rape and male violence generally, giving women one night when they could feel safe to walk the streets of their own towns and cities.
Today, we are still fighting for those rights. Women are still blamed for rape and male violence. The people to blame for these crimes are the men who choose to commit them.
We march today to demand our right to live without the fear or reality of rape and male violence, we demand an end to male violence against women, and we take back this night to win the day.