Rape culture protest outside Parliament

By Melissa Nightingale

Hundreds of Wellington students gathered outside Parliament this afternoon to take a stand against rape culture in their schools.

"Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence stop the rape," the gathered crowd chanted as they waved signs in the air declaring "my little dress does not mean yes" and "consent is not a joke".

The fired-up protesters were prompted to take action following comments posted online by Wellington College students joking about taking advantage of drunk or unconscious women.

I don't want to stand in front of you today and say that I hope to see a better future for my daughter. No, I want change now, for my generation.
Norma McLean, 14

One comment said: "if you don't take advantage of a drunk girl, you're not a true WC [Wellington College] boy."

Another comment said "f*** women".

The comments spurred four Wellington East Girls' College students into organising a protest arguing for consent education in New Zealand schools, and rebuking rape culture.

The protest started at 4.30pm and drew a large number of people, male and female alike.

At the entrance, a group of teenage boys handed out pamphlets for White Ribbon that said: "What kind of guy do you want to be? YES to respectful relationships."

"No matter what I wear, no matter where I go, yes means yes and no means no," was another chant repeated by the crowd.

Numerous signs were waving around in the crowd, including one printed across a pair of underwear on a mannequin bottom.

"I might be butt naked but that doesn't mean yes," it said.

Another sign was emblazoned with a picture of a uterus and the words: "we are not ovary-acting."

Former Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick (left) with protesters Jade Bedel and El Woods. Photo/Melissa Nightingale
Former Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick (left) with protesters Jade Bedel and El Woods. Photo/Melissa Nightingale

Other signs said "this sign would be funnier but rape isn't a joke" and "toxic masculinity ruins the party again".

Wellington student Norma McLean, 14, made a speech to the protesters and was greeted with thunderous applause at the end of every other sentence.

"I want to see a future in which all women can stand tall like we did at this protest," she said.

"I look out at all of you here today and I am so proud, proud that I can be a part of such an important protest.

"I don't want to stand in front of you today and say that I hope to see a better future for my daughter. No, I want change now, for my generation.

"I am 14, and already I have experienced sexual harassment while only walking down the street. I don't want to reach the age of 18 and already be afraid of going outside in the dark. Why should I be afraid? This fear makes me angry, angry that rape culture is still so large among us."

McLean also addressed the men and boys in the crowd.

"Please go forward, spread this message to every man you know. The buck stops here with you. Rape culture stops here with you."

One of the protest organisers, Sorcha Ashworth, also made a speech, saying they were calling for respect.

"It's important we teach the rights a woman has to her own body before the rape culture teaches it first," she said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women Paula Bennett also came down to speak at the protest, commending those attending.

"I think it's incredibly powerful that such a large group has turned out," she said.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox also made an appearance, saying it was "so amazing" to see everybody come out in "such numbers".

She addressed the Wellington College boys attending.

"You could have buried your heads in the sand, you could have said 'that's somebody else's issue, I don't do that, that's somebody else's class."

Instead they were making a stand, she said.

"These young women could potentially be one of your wives in the future. If I were you I'd choose one of them because they know what's what about sexual violence."

A group of women in "pink pussy hats" sang a song, called Quiet, which was first sung at the women's march in Washington DC.

A sign at the rape culture protest in Wellington takes aim at the old saying: 'Boys will be boys'. Photo/Melissa Nightingale
A sign at the rape culture protest in Wellington takes aim at the old saying: 'Boys will be boys'. Photo/Melissa Nightingale

Former Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick was also there to join the protest.

She told the Herald she was in town and decided to come along.

She said it was "crucial" to end rape culture, and also focus on the issue itself rather than terminology.

She said one in three girls would be sexually abused before they were 16, one in seven boys, and 90 per cent of those incidents of abuse would be from someone the victim knew.

"That's a rape culture."

Swarbrick said it was also important that it was young women organising the protest and leading it.

"Keep fighting," she said.

One of the organisers, Selome Teklezgi, said the turnout was "amazing".

She was feeling "pretty emotional" at the response.

Co-organiser, Narjis Al-Zaidi, said they didn't expect so many people.

"I think it still hasn't sunken in yet."

- NZ Herald

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