Activists Dye Iconic Fountains Red to Protest Cuts to Domestic Violence Services
Drops of red dye made their way through the cool blue water in the fountains of central London’s iconic Trafalgar Square. The murky, blood-colored waters were meant to represent lives lost to victims of domestic violence—a figure activists worry could rise.
Planned by activist group Sisters Uncut, Saturday’s protest was organized like a funeral procession, with women dressed in black carrying signs reading “Domestic violence kills” and “They cut, We bleed.”
Those “cuts” are in reference to new budget plans announced Wednesday by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, which included major cuts to local councils.
“These cuts are going to affect women who are trying to flee domestic violence, through their benefits, their housing, and their refuges,” Sarah Kwei, a Sisters Uncut activist, told The Guardian. “They are all being cut. We are taking direct action to say we are not going away. When two women a week are being killed by domestic violence, we can’t take it, we can’t accept it.”
Organizers estimate that roughly 500 women attended Saturday’s protest.
Along with the two women killed each week, an estimated 1.4 million women and 700,000 men in the U.K. were victims of domestic violence in 2014, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics.
Since 2010, more than 30 domestic violence shelters have been shut down owing to budgetary constraints. Activists from Sisters Uncut gained attention in October during a protest at a screening of the film Suffragette, during which they also called for increased funding for domestic violence programs. With Wednesday’s announcement, the group fears programs already strapped for cash will suffer or be shut down, putting women’s lives at risk.
Government officials say they are committed to serving victims of domestic violence. Chancellor Osborne’s plan directs money gained from Britain’s controversial tampon tax to fund women’s charities.
Sisters Uncut likened this idea to sticking “plaster on a hemorrhage.”
Not only do many women feel the tax on tampons is unjustified, as they warrant a tax because the government considers them “nonessential, luxury items,” but some argued that this was asking women to pay for their own governmental services instead of gaining federal funding.
“Taxing menstruation is not the answer,” Sisters Uncut said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Domestic violence services need a long-term, sustainable funding solution—one that is funded by the state.”