On Saturday, 1st September around 100 men and women gathered in Bradford city centre to protest over, Respect MP for Bradford West, George Galloway’s, ridiculous and offensive comments about rape.
In a recent podcast about the current allegations against Julian Assange, Galloway said that: “even if the allegations made by these two women… were 100% true… they don’t constitute rape.” He describes the allegations as no more than “bad sexual etiquette.” If you “go to bed” with someone then you are in “the sex game” with them and he says that you should not need “to be asked prior to each insertion”.
Galloway’s remarks, rightly, almost immediately sparked outrage across the country both outside and inside his party, Respect. Salma Yaqoob, leader of Respect said his remarks were “deeply disappointing and wrong.” Despite this condemnation from his own party Galloway has yet to apologise for his comments.
Due to this the activists involved in Bradford About Consent organised this protest in order to show Galloway the anger his words had sparked amongst his constituents, to try and put pressure on him to give a full apology as well as educate people about the realities of rape and sexual assault in this country.
The protestors also used this opportunity to argue against groups like the EDL using rape of woman to further their own agenda, rightly calling out attempts to frame rape and sexual assault as something emblematic of certain races or religions.
Unfortunately, despite this, the speakers tried to discourage any attempts to link these issues with the current political situation. This was partly due to early accusations that this was a Labour Party fronted protest leading to organisers to declare the protest had no political affiliation: outright banning any kind of political banners or placards.
The speakers also avoided commenting on Galloway’s ableist ‘window lickers’ tweet, despite a number of protestors showing up with placards about this; if these movements united fully they would have placed much, much more pressure on Galloway.
This led the protest to lack a clear forward direction to build upon its initial success and push forward the fight against sexual violence. Even if it does pressure Galloway into an apology, his comments are a drop in an ocean of rape apologism: other politicians and even comedians, such as Jimmy Carr, have been in the news recently for similar comments or jokes. Galloway, or any of these other individuals, apologising would be a positive step as it would highlight how unacceptable such remarks are, but that alone will not end rape and sexual assault.
That will take a united movement with political direction: fighting the cuts, many of which are making women feel more at risk on the streets (such as turning street lights off to save money), and putting forward a political alternative to the parties making these cuts. We need a united campaign of women and men, trade unions and the working class actively fighting back against sexual violence and sexism in all its forms, as well as fighting for real change to the current system that is allowing sexism to flourish, for these issues to ever become a thing of the past.
Michael Johnson, Leeds City & Bradford Socialist Party