Thousands of Women March to Reclaim Public Spaces Across India

Screenshot from Youtube Video

Screenshot from YouTube

Thousands of women across India, from Delhi and Mumbai to Puducherry, rallied this Saturday, carrying signs reading, “I will go out,” in a campaign to reclaim their right to access public spaces without fear of being attacked.

Activists rallied online using the hashtag #IWillGoOut, forming groups around the country, following the horrific mass molestation case in Bangalore, which triggered a mainstream debate about the exclusion of women from public life.

Saturday's marches were coordinated to begin at 5 p.m. IST in more than 30 Indian cities, with organization work by various groups working to promote women's rights.

Ever since the New Year's Eve incident in Bangalore, the city has witnessed several forms of protest, including human chains, online campaigns, and gatherings in parks.

Here's how the group describes itself on Facebook:

#IWillGoOut is a nationwide gathering on 21st January in solidarity against sexual harassment and misogyny, and to reclaim women's rights to safe public spaces. We're a collective of individuals and organisations across various cities in India.

Saturday's demonstrations coincided with the global women's march centered in Washington D.C. against the misogyny, bigotry, and hatred critics attribute to Donald Trump, who became America's 45th president on Friday.

Similar protests broke out in European capitals, as thousands of women took to streets to join sister marches in Asia and the United States, protesting against Trump's inauguration. According to reports, marches took place in Berlin, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Geneva, and Amsterdam.

A demonstration also took place in Nairobi, Kenya, with an additional message to the government:

Here in Kenya we will march to demand reproductive rights, women's land and inheritance rights, and the implementation of the 2/3 rule. We will march to end sexual harassment and assault, female genital mutilation, and the trafficking of women and children; and to end discrimination against LGBTQ people, sex workers, disabled women, HIV positive women, refugee women, women in the informal sector and other marginalized groups.

The protests in India attracted thousands of women across the country, and participants flooded social media with photos and video footage from the events:

Every woman says now that even the day and the night belongs to us. #IWillGoOut

In Delhi:

In Kerala:

At Mumbai:

No one should hide because of fear:

Here is Kaavya Pillai, a journalist and a feminist, explaining the importance of these protests:

Bangalore joined in:

Hyderabad, too:

Shikha Sreenivas wrote in The Ladies Finger about why the conversation is so important:

Systems of oppression and control work differently in various cultures, they reinvent themselves with the times to find new ways to control women, their bodies, and their movement. But these women are full of hope and energy to fight a mindset that seems undefeatable. The movement is a powerful reminder of sisterhood sans borders. These women reminded me what I had forgotten in my despair — that the streets of this country are ours too.

S. Sentalir commented in The Hindu report:

The movement questions the traditional notion of public spaces as the domain of men. It challenges the patriarchal culture that raises questions on a woman’s presence outside her home and blames her attitude and clothes for any act of violence or harassment.

Zoya Vallari wrote in Feminism in india: 

The rally in India was triggered by the appalling incident of mass molestation on New Year’s Eve in the city of Bangalore. This march is aptly called ‘#IWillGoOut’. The ‘I’ in the title asserts a woman’s agency to decide her own actions, behaviour, clothes or timings. The ‘Will’ describes a wilful act of protest in the face of harassment that women experience when they claim their agency. The ‘GoOut’, seemingly straight-forward, stands for multiple things – go out to protest, go out to work, go out to party, go out to question the illegal state actions, go out to contest elections or simply to stare at the sky and loiter in the streets because it is ‘I’ who has the agency to decide what I want to go out for.

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