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Women's rally in London

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By Naomi Christie London, 9th March 2009 (Women marching the streets of London on 7 March 2009. Photo: Naomi Christie)

Women rallied in London last Saturday for an end to male violence.

The event, One Million Women Rise, did not achieve the high numbers it had forecast with stewards estimating a turnout of only 5,000 women and children.

A variety of women spoke out against domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape at the event, with speakers from the UK and support from organisations across the world.

Over the last generation in the UK, feminism has become a matter of contempt and ridicule. The word tends to be associated with hatred of men and aggressive female supremacy.

The upshot is that legitimate events promoting human rights, such as million women rise, see low attendance.

I can not help but wonder if the lack in popularity for feminism is doing physical harm to girls and women. The UK maintains the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, with over four per cent of under eighteens falling pregnant last year.

Whilst poor sex education and low future prospects are often given as reasons for our record teen pregnancy rate, I would argue that we should seriously question whether violence could be part of the cause.

Woman demonstratorHalf of pregnancies in girls aged under eighteen in the UK end in abortion. If half of teen pregnancy is not only unplanned, but unwanted - what proportion is the direct result of coercion, threat or violence?

The British schooling system offers basic information on contraception. Most sex education is covered purely by biology, and there is little or no discussion of relationships in schools.

(Photo by Niaomi Christie)

My experience of growing up in the UK was sex was spoken of as the result of 'when a man and a woman love each other very much.' This is patently rarely the case.

The conflicting messages given by education, the media and real life experience seem to have no resolution in a world where standing up for your rights in relationships as a woman brands you as a feminist and therefore a ridicule.

A spokesperson from the charity Object was apt to say: "The first step in the oppression of people is the dehumanisation of them."

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