Women mobilise for first British 'SlutWalk' rally

Thousands of provocatively-dressed women are expected to march through London next month when the growing "SlutWalk" phenomenon reaches these shores.

Thousands have taken part in such marches in Canada and the US, after a protest movement was sparked by the comments of a Canadian police officer suggested women should "avoid dressing like sluts" if they wanted to avoid being raped. On SlutWalk London's Facebook page, 3,500 people have already said they will take part in the march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square on 4 June. Previous protests in North America have seen many women marching in lingerie.

"Some people will choose to dress like that," said Anastasia Richardson, 17, the organiser of the London SlutWalk. "But people can come in whatever makes them feel comfortable. Anyone can get called a slut, no matter how they are dressed, no matter how they are acting. It doesn't have any real meaning. It is just used to victimise and demean them."

About 3,000 women took part in the first SlutWalk in Toronto last month and 2,000 more took part in another in Boston, Massachusetts, on Saturday. Police Constable Michael Sanguetti made his inflammatory remarks to a group of students in Toronto in April. "You know, I think we're beating around the bush here," he reportedly said. "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised."

He has since apologised and been disciplined by the Toronto police force but remains on duty.

"I think the reaction shows how relevant it is, especially in Britain, where only 6.5 per cent of rape cases end in convictions – and that's the ones we know about," Ms Richardson said.

The SlutWalk London website says it wants to end a culture of fear and victimisation. "Let's raise our voices and tell the world that rape is never, ever OK," it proclaims. "Not if she was wearing a miniskirt. Not if she was naked. Not if she was your wife, girlfriend or friend. Not if she was a prostitute. Not if she was drunk. Not if you thought she wanted to."

The website adds: "All over the world, women are constantly made to feel like victims, told they should not look a certain way, should not go out at night, should not go into certain areas, should not get drunk, should not wear high heels or make-up, should not be alone with someone they don't know.

"Not only does this divert attention away from the real cause of the crime – the perpetrator – but it creates a culture where rape is OK, where it's allowed to happen."

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