Sisters Uncut Protest Makes Trafalgar Square's Fountains Run Red
The Debrief: Hundreds of women gathered in central London on Saturday to protest against cuts to domestic violence support services
On Saturday the fountains of Trafalgar Square ran red, dyed by feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut. The water was meant to resemble the blood of women killed by domestic violence, as hundreds protested alongside the direct action group over government cuts.
The demonstration was styled as a funeral procession, a mourning march for the domestic violence services that have been cut. The group says that around 500 women joined their demonstration against service changes which, they argue, are directly resulting in the loss of women’s lives.
Protestors wore mourning clothes and black veils. The Sisters carried signs which displayed the number of women’s refuges that have closed since 2010 – estimated to be around 30 – and shouted slogans including ‘they cut, we bleed’ as they marched through central London from Soho Square to Trafalgar Square.
Two women a week die every week as a result of violence against women at the hands of a current of former partner in the UK. Domestic violence also has a higher rate of repeat victimization than any other crime, according to Home Office figures.
Saturday’s action took place following last week’s Autumn Statement where the Chancellor, George Osborne, said that the government would make an initial £5 million donation to four charities – the Eve Appeal, SafeLives, Women’s Aid and The Haven…with money gathered from the Tampon Tax.
‘I’m going to use the 15 million a year raised from the Tampon Tax to fund women’s health and support charities’ he told parliament last Wednesday, as he delivered this year's Autumn Statement on the same day as the UN's International Day for Ending Violence Against Women.
The protest was a direct comment on and rejection of cuts to local services, which include provision for domestic violence victims. Zara, from Sisters Uncut told The Debrief that the Chancellor’s proposal ‘does not provide the money that the sector needs. 1 in 3 women are being turned away from refuges and we need much more money than he’s proposing. This was just a political gesture that is made redundant by cuts to local council budgets. Many of the services being cut are specialist services for black and ethnic minority women – they are bearing the brunt of those cuts.’
The protest began with a memorial service for women killed this year as a result of domestic violence. Zara told us that it was a direct comment on the link between cuts to funding and women’s deaths. ‘Our message is “they cut, we bleed.” When we say “they”, we mean the government and when we say “we”, we mean women facing domestic violence.’
‘There’s a very human cost to these cuts. The reason we want to make it so clear and so visual is because many of these cuts are being hidden…not many people understand how the funding works but we want to make it really clear that there is a direct link between services being lost and women losing their lives.’ This is why their protest was designed to have a distinct visual impact, a funeral procession culminating with putting blood red dye into iconic fountains in central London Zara says.
While the Department for Communities and Local Government strongly denied that women’s services would suffer from further cuts, according to The Guardian. Zara told The Debrief that Sisters Uncut have ‘had news today that Portsmouth council are planning to cut their domestic violence service by 50%'.
‘We are currently trying to mobilise sisters there to take action against this’, she said.
If you do need to talk to someone about domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Helpline - 0808 2000 247 – it’s free and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You might also be interested in:
Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating