The Power of Peaceful Protest

On the 18th March 1922, British magistrates in India sentenced Gandhi to six years’ imprisonment for ‘civil disobedience’. But locking up Gandhi did not silence him. If anything being imprisoned amplified his message.

Peaceful protest is making a comeback in 2017, and it’s making a real impact. On the 21st January, millions of people globally joined the Women’s March to protest against sexist rhetoric in politics. On the 4th February thousands attended  marches to protest against Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ across the UK. Seemingly as a direct result of grassroots activism, Trump’s state visit to the UK has been postponed to the autumn.

 

Making our Voices Heard

The power of peaceful protest has been very clear in promoting women’s rights and encouraging politicians to take action to do more to protect women against gender-based violence. Grassroots women’s groups have been campaigning on VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) issues for a long time. Finally, the Government have said that they will make the prevention of violence against women a priority. On International Women’s Day it was announced that £80 million pounds will be spent on employing a new strategy to prevent VAWG through early intervention and prevention. [1]

 

But more still needs to be done to ensure the voices of marginalised women’s voices are being heard. Despite the traumatic experiences they may have faced in their home country or on the journey to the UK, significant numbers of asylum-seeking women are detained. [2] Closer attention needs to be paid to gender inequalities in the asylum process, especially in detention. Between 2013 and 2015 there were six allegations of sexual assault made by detainees at Yarl’s Wood detention centre against guards, figures that the Home Office have been reluctant to discuss.[3]

 

[1] ‘Government announces new strategy to prevent violence against women and girls to mark International Women's Day’, (HM Government, 8th March 2016) <https://www.gov.uk/government/news/80-million-to-stop-violence-against-women-and-girls>

 

[2] In 2012, 6,071 women came to the UK seeking asylum in their own right and 1,902 women who had sought asylum were detained. ‘Executive Summary’, Detained: Women Asylum Seekers Locked Up in the UK, by Marchu Girma, Sophie Radice et. al (London: Women for Refugee Women, 2014), p.4.

 

[3] ‘Parliamentary Question Reveals Extent of Sexual Assault in Yarl’s Wood’, Women’s Asylum News 136, (Asylum Aid, June/July 2016), p.8. < http://www.asylumaid.org.uk/womens-asylum-news-136/>