Reclaiming Headingley : Women’s Rights are Human Rights

By Zahra Iqbal

This blog usually consists of foreign human rights violations, which wrongfully leads us to believe that human rights violations do not happen, here in Leeds. This week I wanted to reflect on the recent reports of sexual assault in Headingley, in an alleyway that many of us frequently use or have used.

The pathway in question is the one that runs behind the Headingley Carnegie Stadium, connecting Kirkstall Lane to St Michael’s Lane.  It came to light last week, after a thread of tweets from a postgraduate student on Twitter who managed to escape an attack on the alleyway. Since then, support has flooded in, petitions have been set up, MPs have been contacted and protests have been organised. Despite this overwhelming amount of support, personally, it has triggered a sense of anxiety I previously did not have when walking around Hyde Park or Headingley. I am on high alert now when I walk around the above-mentioned areas, at all times of the day. This is a sad fact and the fact that danger like this exists within such close proximity.

Local Labour MPs have said that they will continue to monitor the situation closely, however, they are still failing to act in an effective way. Therefore, to make up for the lack of action from the local MPs, Fresh2Death (the events company) have teamed up with a private security service to patrol the alley from 6 pm -11 pm every day. The security team are patrolling the alley, as well as accompanying people to make sure they feel safe and aren’t put at risk.

It feels like I sound like a broken record when saying that women have the right to walk where they want, whenever they want, wearing what they want, and without the danger of being attacked, approached or shouted at. The lack of action from local MPs paired with a Facebook post from West Yorkshire Police – Leeds North West claiming the reports of assault are simply a ‘rumour’; making us women in the area feel neglected, minuscule and like we do not matter.

Sexual harassment in any form: groping, coercing people into sex, flashing, wolf-whistling, making sexual jokes (the list goes on) is unacceptable. Women should not be told to accept these as a ‘normality’. Despite how ‘normalised’ we are told it is, do not forget that sexual harassment is an infringement of our safety, human rights and our liberty and we must fight and protest until we feel safe.

Here’s a link to the petition to have more safety procedures on the alleyway and a link to the protest.