A memorial protest is to be held at the Scottish Parliament one year on from the murder of Sarah Everard.
Those in attendance at the rally will remember Ms Everard, as well as all other women who have been murdered at the hands of men.
The 33-year-old was kidnapped, raped and murdered by serving Met police officer Wayne Couzens as she walked home in south London on March 3, 2021.
The Met announced that it would deploy hundreds of additional officers as part of efforts to help women and girls feel safer on London’s streets.
However, the force has received strong criticism over its culture and failure to go further in protecting women.
Following the murder of Ms Everard, Police Scotland said it would introduce ID verification to give assurance to any member of public concerned about the identity of an officer.
Speaking ahead of the rally, Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon insisted that there is still a “long way to go” for women and girls to feel safe.
And Lennon, who is due to speak at the protest, explained there are “a lot of lessons” that must be learned.
“It’s really important to remember Sarah Everard and to come together to show our respects at the Scottish Parliament,” she told STV News.
“But not only to remember Sarah and the appalling loss of her life, but all the other women who have died here in Scotland and across the UK because they weren’t safe to walk the streets.
“As a woman, I know what it’s like to be walking alone at night and looking over your shoulder, or phoning home to be chatting on the phone while you’re walking.
“And we’ve still got a long way to go for women and girls to feel safe, and at the root of that is male behaviour.
“We have to stamp out sexism, we have to stamp out misogyny and we have to look at organisations like the police who should be trusted, but time and time again have unfortunately let women down. So, there are a lot of lessons that we still have to learn.
“But at the rally, I hope that women and men will come together from all political parties, and none, to say that this violence and this murder is not acceptable, and we all have a responsibility to join together to speak with one voice and to say enough is enough.”
Lennon acknowledged the frustration for women in continually needing to hold rallies to demand change.
“We feel angry, we feel frustrated, we feel heartbroken,” she explained.
“Too many women are losing their lives at the hands of violent men who believe that they are entitled to walk the streets and to do harm to women and girls.
“So, it is exhausting as women that we have to come together time and time again to have these rallies, to have these memorials and to demand change.”
The Scottish Labour MSP insisted that more must be done by those in power to ensure that change takes place.
And Lennon also outlined the need for education at a grassroots level, including in classrooms, to challenge everyday sexism and violence against women.
She continued: “It’s unacceptable in 2022 that women and girls are still afraid to walk the streets.
“And it’s not always at night, even in broad daylight women are still being attacked.
“And that’s not the fault of women, it’s not about what women are wearing, it’s not about the route that women choose to take, it’s not about the lack of street lights – it’s about the behaviour of bad men and it needs to stop.”
Lennon added: “What is really powerful in this fight is when other men challenge that toxic male behaviour.
“That will help us to accelerate this progress and this fight.”
The chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, Sandy Brindley, outlined the need for men to “step up” and to be a part of the culture change.
She told STV News: “I think people have been really shocked by some of the conversation that’s happened since Sarah Everard’s murder and the murder of other women like Sabina Nessa and Esther Brown.
“Just I think women speaking about the reality of how many steps we take every day to try and avoid male violence.
“So, I do think we need men to step up and be part of the culture change, we also need our institutions to step up and particularly our justice system to provide an effective deterrent.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Pam Gosal will also be in attendance at the rally on Thursday.
She called for whole life sentences to be made available as an option to Scottish judges.
“This protest is a memorial for a young woman who died in the most unimaginable circumstances – but it is also dedicated to every woman who has experienced violence and intimidation at the hands of men,” she said.
“It may have been a year since the horrific murder of Sarah Everard, but many women still feel unsafe on our streets, today.
“Words are good but actions are better. Sarah Everard’s killer got a whole life sentence in England. That option must be available to judges in Scotland too.
“Every woman should be able to walk our streets without fear – my colleagues and I will continue to call for the Scottish Government to strengthen punishments for this kind of unacceptable violence, and finally tackle gender-motivated crimes in Scotland.”
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