We speak to organisers, Reclaim the Streets, and MSPs who reflect on the tragic loss of Sabina Nessa.
Many gathered in George Square on Friday evening to light candles and leave flowers for Sabina Nessa, the 28-year-old teacher killed in Cator Park in London last week. The vigil was organised by Reclaim These Streets Glasgow, organisers of the vigil for Sarah Everard just seven months previously.
Speaking to The Glasgow Guardian Gabriella Garcia-Cleary from Reclaim These Streets said: “This is an issue that’s going to keep recurring because the reaction is to ask what the woman could have done to avoid being attacked, and that can’t be the way that we react to these things. It’s not actually focusing on the problem; it’s focusing on how the victim should prepare for an inevitable attack. Women have done their best to try and be safe in society and too much pressure is on them. It’s up to men: men have to take ownership. If it’s not all men, those men who it’s “not” really need to step up and call out their peers and male counterparts who say things that are degrading towards women and who don’t treat women correctly. Hopefully, that’s how it begins to be a situation where not as many men feel entitled to a woman’s body, whether it’s inappropriately touching them at a bar or whether it’s attacking a girl who is just trying to see her friend.”
“Women have done their best to try and be safe in society and too much pressure is on them.”
Garcia-Cleary also commented on the noticeable difference in media attention between Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa despite the similarities in their cases. “Unfortunately, as a minority myself, it’s no surprise. The standard MO is that a white victim gets far more coverage than a victim of colour, but this also includes victims in the queer community. I hope, as we move forward, we won’t just focus on those that are in a graduation gown and are beautiful, we all are beautiful in our own right and we need to be appreciated as humans. Currently, there is definitely a disproportionate focus on white women that face these attacks. In Glasgow, some days I don’t feel safe going out. On football days, for instance, I don’t want something racial to be said to me. Overall, I hope that men will step up. There are good men out there, but those good men aren’t stepping up enough to hold others accountable in the male community.”
“There are good men out there, but those good men aren’t stepping up enough to hold others accountable…”
Labour MSP Pauline McNeill, who was also in attendance at the vigil, spoke candidly to The Glasgow Guardian about violence against women saying that: “I think with now, five or six high profile murders of women, there’s something very significant going on and women’s safety is a paramount issue. These women were just walking home. Sabina was just walking home, Libby Squires was just walking home, Sarah Everard was just walking home, and they were not safe. Most violence against women is from men that they know, but why are we so vulnerable on the streets?”
Commenting on changes the Scottish Government can enforce, Ms McNeill stated: “The government has some very decent policies, but I think that it’s going to have to be much more broadly discussed in society and in schools in order to challenge men’s behaviour. Now, as women, we’re all having to think, are we safe here? What are we going to do so that we don’t have another whole generation of girls growing up thinking that they can’t walk safely in these streets?”
The vigil for Sabina Nessa took place from 7-8pm and, as it came to a close, women attending made their way back home at around 8.30pm, the same time at which Sabina Nessa is believed to have been killed. The awareness was present yet unspoken, the women leaving behind an atmosphere of solemn hope that they can indeed “reclaim these streets”.