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Beyond the Hashtags: How Online Activism Led to Women Reclaiming the Street

online activism: Women and men gathered for a protest in Bengaluru(Photo courtesy: Night in my Shining Armour)

A generation accused of only raging on social media is taking to the streets. Bengaluru might be the trigger, but the midnight runs and post-dark park visits are part of something bigger.

We’re at Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) at 11pm. Till evening, this area is buzzing, thanks to the numerous corporate offices in BKC. But now, the streets are deserted, vehicles are few and far between. In one half of an open pay-and-park space, there are bright lights, a makeshift stage, and a small crowd. Most are dressed in workout outfits, with neon vests and marathon bibs. While those present are mostly women, there are a few men as well. They’re here for a midnight run (7km) to draw attention to the issue of women’s safety.

Participants at the midnight run ( Photo: Kunal Patil/HT )

“I’m here to express solidarity with the women of Bengaluru,” says Sangeeta Rege, 35, a professional at city-based health research centre, CEHAT.

After the accusation of mass molestation in Bengaluru on New Year’s Eve, there has been a wave of public outrage. Sexist reactions by public leaders that followed did nothing to help. Across the country, the movement by women to reclaim the street took on greater urgency.

A protestor holds up a sign in Bengaluru ( Photo courtesy: Night in my Shining Armour )

Essentially, the ‘reclaim the night’ or ‘take back the night’ movement fights for a woman’s right to be out and about post sunset. The first few night marches were held in America in the late 1970s — after the murder of a woman walking home alone in Philadelphia, USA, and have since been held across the globe. Similarly, ‘reclaim the street’ asserts a woman’s right to occupy public spaces just as much as men, at any hour. At times, the proposed agenda is to read a book, or nap at a park. But, largely, it’s just to gather without an aim, without an express purpose.

This article was originally published in the Hindustan Times. Read the rest of the article here.

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