Hundreds of protesters marched through central Tel Aviv on Friday in an annual SlutWalk organized to draw attention to women’s rights in Israel and widespread sexual harassment.
The crowd of mostly women, many wearing just bras or bikini tops, carried signs with slogans including “You’re not guilty,” “Make love, not rape” and “A thong is not an invitation to rape.”
Many had the Hebrew word for “slut,” or phrases such as “no means no,” written on their bodies.
One in five Israeli women is a victim of rape, and almost all experience harassment at some point, said event organizer Bracha Barad.
“Sex crimes are a living thing in our life, it’s not something we can ignore, so we have to go out and protest about it because we don’t have anything else to do,” Barad said.
In their march along the beach and through the streets of Tel Aviv, protesters chanted slogans such as “Women, demand safety on the streets,” and “My body is not a sex object.” About 1,000 demonstrators took part, organzisers said.
SlutWalks, which are held internationally, are meant to make a statement about women’s choice.
“The swearing and getting undressed, it’s basically an act of reclaiming. We’re reclaiming the word slut, and saying nobody’s a slut, or everybody’s a slut. It’s not an offensive word anymore if we’re using it on ourselves,” Barad said.
She drew a parallel to the word “queer,” which was once derogatory but is now mainstream.
Highlighting recent rape cases in Herzliya and Tel Aviv, Barad said the march is also meant to draw attention to men’s culpability in sexual crime, regardless of a woman’s outfit or behavior.
“The provocative dress is, other than getting the media’s attention, is meant to say, it doesn’t matter if I’m undressed or if I’m a slut, I’m allowed to say no, and if somebody disregards this ‘no,’ then he is a sex offender and I’m not at fault,” Barad said.
The march set off from Gordon Beach around 10:30 am, and ended at Habima Square, where protesters gave speeches.
SlutWalks first began in Toronto, Canada in April 2011, in response to a police officer’s suggestion that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” in order to avoid being raped. Since then, the protests have taken place in cities throughout the world, and have broadened their scope to include protests against all types of sexual assault and harassment, as well as the prevalence of victim blaming.