SlutWalk march challenges attitude to rape that blames victim

Rise in sexual assaults prompts SlutWalk rally, which organisers hope will change mentality

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 3:17am

With cases of indecent assault climbing in the city, this Sunday's "SlutWalk" march will challenge social attitudes that blame the victims for being attacked.

The event was sparked by a Canadian police officer's remark in January of last year that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised".

Since then the marches have been held in more than 100 cities around the world, although some have chosen not to use the name "SlutWalk", which is controversial even among feminists.

"After a sexual assault, the victim might hear from friends and family: 'I told you not to go out at night', or 'I told you not to wear that dress', or simply, 'You deserved it'," said Angie Ng, who organised the city's first SlutWalk last year. "We are trying to change the social attitudes that support this violence."

According to police figures, there were 1,415 cases of indecent assault last year, compared to 991 cases a decade ago. But the actual number of assaults is much higher, since only 4 per cent of cases are reported to police, according to a 2004 University of Hong Kong report.

Sunday's event will begin at 1.30pm in Causeway Bay, and protesters - some wearing "sexy" costumes - will march to Chater Garden in Central, where a rally and concert will be held.

"The word 'slut' [ dong fu in Cantonese] is a very severe insult against a woman," said one of this year's organisers, Phoebe Lo Yan-yin. "There's a very deep-seated idea in our culture that dong fu are asking to have something bad happen to them."

Hong Kong's march attracted about 200 participants last year, similar to numbers seen in Asian centres like Seoul and New Delhi.

"It's really hard for me to explain to my friends what SlutWalk is about," said Lo, a student at Polytechnic University. "But at least SlutWalk gets people talking about taboo topics."

City University PhD student Dan Garrett said: "I support SlutWalk because no one deserves to be violated or harassed sexually under any circumstances, and victims should not be shamed or blamed for what was done to them."

Jue Sun, a gender studies researcher, said: "The mainstream attitude towards female sexuality is very much distorted. On the one hand, women are asked to behave decently; on the other hand, you see women sexualised in all mass-media products."