Thousands Of Germans Take Part In ‘Reclaim Feminism’ Protest To Stand Against Rape & Sexual Assault

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During New Years Eve celebrations, a number of German cities, including Cologne which reported the highest number of attacks, became the center of international headlines after it was reported hundreds of women were assaulted by men, most of whom were refugees from North African countries. It was a shock to the country that has been the most welcoming in Europe to hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking asylum over the past year, especially those looking to escape the escalating war in Syria which has affected neighboring countries.

Since the attacks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the country would revise and curb the number of refugees they would allow. The Guardian reports the number of people arrested for the disgusting sexual crimes on New Years Eve to be 21.

“Almost three weeks after the incident a total of 838 people have filed criminal complaints, including 497 women alleging sexual assault. Some of the victims have jointly filed a single complaint, so that the number of alleged crimes stands at 766, of which 381 are sexual offenses, including three rapes,” said the news report.

The news of the mass-assault caused great fear among those who have been most critical of Europe’s most populous country allowing so many refugees into their borders. It played into the far-right fear mongering that integrating men from conservative Muslim countries into a free, Western society, is a recipe for disaster.

The growing support for groups such as PEGIDA (an anti-immigrant German political movement based in Dresden which claims to be anti-Islamist and against what it sees as the growing influence of Islam in Europe) as well as a right-wing political party AfD (Alternative for Germany) left Chancellor Merkel with the hard choice of choosing between doing the right thing for refugees who are in need, and listening to her German constituents.

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In light of the changing landscape and increasing discussion around this ongoing issue, it is heartening to hear about a protest that was recently held in Cologne, in the exact location where many of the sexual assaults took place, to take a stand against racism and rape.

Thousands of feminist activist groups gathered in peaceful demonstration, waving banners and flags denouncing the damaging ideals that often force many victims into staying silent.

“However I dress, wherever I go, yes means yes and no means no,” was one of the slogans being chanted by the large group, according to DW.com.

The coalition of activist groups who called themselves Reclaim Feminism outlined some very important points regarding this protest, as reported by RevolutionNews.com. Some of the activists claimed the New Years Eve attacks became an excuse for far-right groups to hijack women’s issues to trample on the dignity of refugees.

“Racist groups still use the topic for their agitation against open borders and refugees. But very few people were interested in the real topic of a steadily increasing danger for every woman. Especially refugee-women are facing male violence, harassment and rapes on their journey, and in the camps and accomodations as we saw some weeks after New Years Eve, when female refugees reported sexual threats in a camp in Cologne Grimberg. This time the public scream was missed,” wrote organization Welcome to Wuppertal.

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The Reclaim Feminism coalition explained further how the attacks on women was just another reason to spout racist ideals, rather than actually tackling the complex problem of rape and sexual assault.

“The survivors of the sexualised infringements at new year’s eve – and those of all sexualised attacks, that happen daily – must receive all the solidarity and support they require. However, the media attention did not primarily focus on calling sexualised violence by name, but on the alleged background and origin of the offenders – and that with blatant racism: The discussion quickly stopped being about sexism, but about tightening asylum laws, national isolation and deportation,” they said.

The idea for the protest was to raise awareness of what Germans should be focusing on instead, how those who decry the refugee attackers are blatantly ignoring the structural sexism that exist in Germany which they don’t advocate otherwise.

“Instead of gushing over racist debates about perpetrators, we should talk about the function and meaning of sexualised violence and structural sexism – worldwide. The discussion should be about racism and the ongoing violence against refugees, as we still have armed assaults against refugee homes – every day…A popular conclusion: Not the sexism in this country is the problem, but the refugees. But: Sexism did not immigrate to Germany, Sexism is homemade,” said the Reclaim Feminism post.

DW reporter Tamsut who attended the event on March 12 estimated 4000 people in total were present, and the “generally peaceful” event were adamant that taking a stand against sexual assault doesn’t have to include racism. Among the crowds were Kurdish women, and the organizations Syrians against sexism and Afghan refugees against sexism, proving Reclaim Feminism’s point that gender violence hurts refugees as well.

 


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The New Years Eve attacks were a significant event for the modern feminist movement. While some anti-feminist media publications immediately claimed feminists did not do enough to raise their voices about it, it has become apparent that the incident being co-opted by racist anti-immigrant groups probably had something to do about it.

Reclaim feminism lists the real issues that these organizations never seem to care about any any other time during the calendar year, but have all-of-a-sudden made it their issue as they felt the feminists didn’t do enough.

“Structural sexism is found in different compensation, discrimination of all women, particularly of trans women and women of colour, on the job market or in different expectations who does which chores, e.g. child care. It is also found in sexist advertisement and in workshops of so called “Pick-up Artists”, that teach men, how they can coerce women* to do things they do not want to. Nobody talks about domestic sexualised violence. 90% of all rape takes place in the direct surroundings of a person. By relatives, acquaintances, and (ex)partners. Nobody talks about the daily sexualisation and the sexual assaults on women of colour,” they pointed out.

It is vital that we remain vigilant of the terrorism that we are seeing happening all over the world, but it should not be at the expense of an entire group of people. It has become a popular notion to label, for instance, all Muslims as “radicals” because of the actions of small minority of extremists who claim they are carrying out their mission in the name of Islam. Just as easy as it is to portray all feminists as bra-burning, man-hating radical women simply because of the image portrayed in the media and throughout history.

Unlike the ant-immigrant and anti-feminist groups who chose to use the NYE attacks as a reason to point out the futility of welcoming refugees and the feminist movement in generation, Reclaim Feminism have created a meaningful, thoughtful and peaceful way to present the actual topics of concern.

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