High school students march against sexism in Adelaide

The Youth March Against Sexual Violence on Kaurna land (Adelaide) on 24 June saw a spirited crowd of up to 1000 take to city streets. Young women and non-binary school students took the lead, joined by numerous boys, along with a sprinkling of older supporters.

As organiser Martha lamented in her speech: “Violence and misogyny are rife within our schools… Young women aged 15 to 19 are reported to have the highest rate of sexual assault crimes committed against them per year… When we report it, to those who are meant to protect us, we are told that we are irrational, too emotional, over exaggerating or that we are blatantly telling lies…

“I do not want to live my life in a society where my existence is rooted in objectification and the male gaze.”

The march followed a walkout against sexism a few weeks earlier at Adelaide High School. Students in the Call4Action activist group organised an online petition with a list of demands for action by the school, which has now attracted over 7500 signatures.

The Adelaide Advertiser quoted former Labor MP Kate Ellis’s apt description of the students as, “warriors who are not prepared to sit quietly and let this continue”, “at the new forefront of the battle for change”.

The students are building on the wave of revulsion against sexist abuse that manifested in the national March4Justice movement, and multiple youth marches around the country.

Sexism has deep roots in our society, with sexual objectification in the media and entertainment and bosses benefiting from pay inequality and women’s unpaid labour.

The Adelaide rally was dominated by chants for “Consent education—now!”, backed by speakers such as educator Karen Keavy. There is no doubt we need frank education in schools that equips students to recognise and call out abuse, and helps boys resist the conditioning that encourages abusive behaviour.

But the Advertiser earlier quoted Adelaide High student Rira pointing to a wider agenda, adding demands for “legal and economic support for survivors of sex-related crime and abuse, better funding for women’s services and sexist politicians out of parliament”’. If students are prepared to argue for targeting sexism’s base in the system, the anger and energy on display at the local march bode well for the struggles to come.

By Robert Stainsby

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