The Night Time Industry Association (NTIA) has said they have seen a rise in drink-spiking throughout the UK over recent weeks. This confirms again what women already know; that we are not safe.

Whether it be walking at night like Sarah Everard or Sabina Nessa, going to the club, or even just existing in our homes, we are at risk of assault and violence no matter where we are. But increasingly, young people are standing up against violence against women.

Boycott

In response to this epidemic of spiking, a spontaneous movement amongst predominantly university students has sprung up across the country called “Girls Night In”, urging people of all genders to boycott nightclubs to get them to implement more measures to prevent spiking. 

Over the last few weeks, Instagram pages for “Girls Night In” campaigns in various cities all over the UK have generated thousands of followers each. This has also prompted many women to share their experiences of the brutality and fear generated of such attacks. 

One Nottingham student said

“…I couldn’t get my words out, I collapsed, I started throwing up in the taxi on the way home. [My friends]  could tell something’s really wrong here because I was falling in and out of consciousness.”

Another said

“Last week my friend got injected with a needle…and ended up throwing up blood and spending the night in hospital.’”

Some demands from this campaign include drinks covers, clear cups, extra training for staff, and more direct access to medical facilities and transportation. 

Other demands that call for greater searching powers and surveillance have also emerged. A petition has sprung up with over 150,000 signatures to implement a new law that would require clubs to search all guests entering clubs. 

Police response

However, it is unlikely that extra training for staff will be able to effectively deal with this issue. Even before this campaign started, the crisis of capitalism did not leave the nighttime sector untouched, with long term shortages of security and bar staff already being reported. 

This had led clubs, in order to continue to make money after nearly 2 years of closure, to put under-trained and overstretched staff on the frontline to deal with this surge in spiking – leaving women even more vulnerable. 

In response to this groundswell of anger, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel has urged police forces to look more into the problem. Nottinghamshire Police (with other police forces likely to follow suit) has also said that it will be deploying more officers over the next few weekends. 

As Marxists, we must make clear that more police powers, greater surveillance, or more cops on the beat will do nothing to prevent violence against women. What is more plausible is that these extra powers will instead be used to further harass BAME communities, who already disproportionately bear the brunt of state violence, and women themselves. 

It was, using the extra powers given to him to tackle lockdown violations, that Wayne Couzens was able to abduct and murder Sarah Everard. Bystanders thought they were witnessing a valid arrest given the authority the police hold.

Ultimately, the police and the state do not exist to protect women but to protect the power of the capitalist class and their system. They are the boots-on-the-ground defenders of capitalism, a horrific system that relies on misogyny and racism to divide the working class. 

 

This is borne out by the statistics. While reports of sexual assault and rape have increased, rape convictions are at an historic low. In periods of acute crisis like we are living through now, the state is uninterested in helping women. 

 

Alongside increased violence since the start of the pandemic, women have disproportionately been affected by a decade of austerity that has completely eroded the safety nets – hard-won by the labour movement – that once existed for working-class women.

Overthrow the system

Lenin’s quote ‘capitalism is horror without end’ is proven for women every day. We must overthrow this sick system. 

 

For all their words, politicians cannot defend the interests of women while also defending this decrepit system that perpetuates violence against women. Only through the complete overhaul of the capitalist system and its replacement with a socialist society can we ensure the safety of every person and rid society of the rotten relics of misogyny and violence.

 

Eve Rickson

 

Statement from Birmingham Marxists

Women’s safety over the last few months has only got worse and nothing is being done about it. The idea of going out at night is becoming increasingly scarier – with many opting to stay in and those who go out having to devise new strategies to stay safe. But it’s not just going out at night, it’s coming back home after late lectures or clubs/societies in the evenings. The fear and anger at this can be felt on the Birmingham Fab ‘n’ Fresh page, where many are protesting the lack of safety and demanding action be taken.

The University of Birmingham’s response to this comes quite late, after many societies and individuals already boycotting guild events which were cancelled in response, and several people being spiked over Halloween weekend, they have called for increased frequency of searches- which doesn’t guarantee that people will be searched at all events. Furthermore, they have called for ‘enhanced police presence’, which since Sarah Everard was murdered by a police officer, doesn’t instill confidence. On top of this it doesn’t say what actions will be taken against those in possession of needles or drugs. Dame Cressida Dick was also brought in by the University to give a talk on women’s safety. However, this was postponed due to the threat of mass protest of the students, who were angered by lack of action and Dick’s perpetuation of victim blaming. This along with the Reclaim Campus protest shows that gains will only be made through the mass movement of students.

It is clear that the Guild will not fight for our interests while it is under control of University management. Therefore the only way forward is to fight for an independent guild and the democratic student-staff running of the University, who will fight for our interests and protect us.


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