‘String Bikinis Are Not an Invitation for Rape’: Thousands March in Tel Aviv SlutWalk

Protestors marched down Rothschild Boulevard in the center of the city and blocked roads along the way

Tel Aviv SlutWalk, May 31, 2019.
Meged Gozani

Thousands participated in the SlutWalk in Tel Aviv on Friday, protesting sexual violence and victim-blaming. The protestors marched down Rothschild Boulevard in the center of the city and blocked roads along the way.

Demonstrators, men and women, shouted slogans such as: “A string bikini is not an invitation to rape,” carrying signs with pictures of well-known sex offenders – such as former President Moshe Katsav, Hanan Goldblatt, Alon Kastiel and Yaniv Nahman.

The crowd included many more young people than previous SlutWalks. Protesters shouted slogans like, “No means no” and “No clothing is an invitation for rape.” One of the female protestors called out: “Yesterday, they closed the case of the gang rape in Herzliya. The police are not protecting the victims.”

Protesters at the Tel Aviv SlutWalk, May 31, 2019.
Meged Gozani

One of the participants, Nitzan from Rehovot, told Haaretz why it was important for him to attend the march: “If any person cannot walk around during the day or at night and feel safe, then we have lost. It's my struggle, just as much as everyone here today," he said. Liraz, who came from Jerusalem, said she has friends who were raped and “they are embarrassed to come and march – so I’m marching for them.”

At the rally held at the end of the march, Sheri Golan, one of the women Alon Kastiel was convicted of attempting to rape, told the crowd that at first she was afraid to complain to the police about what happened to her. “I was the one who felt shame. I was the one who felt guilty. It was not my fault and it is not your fault,” she declared.

"The first time I came to a SlutWalk and saw thousands of young women shouting 'even if you didn't scream, we will scream for you,' I cried," Golan added. "I felt that I wasn't alone just because I didn't scream then, and even if I had screamed no one would have heard me."

Protesters at the Tel Aviv SlutWalk, May 31, 2019.
Meged Gozani

Nitzan Kahana, the director of the Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution said at the rally that the timing of the march is important. “We would have been the first victims of the planned assassination of the rule of law. We will be the first to be harmed if we do not start, and as soon as possible, to fight for our lives,” said Kahana, apparently referring to the right-wing government that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form.

“We were saved by the skin of or teeth from those who say that women cannot serve in the army. Those who say that we must separate women and men. Those who would send us to the back of the bus. With amazing timing, we are marching here today, not just for those who are here with us but for all the women in Israel, from Bnei Brak to Kiryat Shmona, from Taibeh to Dimona,” she added.

The Together Kulan feminist movement has organized the SlutWalks for the past four years, in Tel Aviv and other cities. Bracha Barad, the director of Kulan, told Haaretz that the name of the march serves its purpose. “The name is not incidental. Our provocative tactics serve us. To shout feminism is not enough, and the goal is to cause the entire country to speak about victim-shaming, and when that happens, I’ll be satisfied,” said Barad.

Protesters at the Tel Aviv SlutWalk, May 31, 2019.
Meged Gozani

While taking part in the march might not be appropriate for everyone, Barad said, “we see thousands of women and people who were hurt who say the march is their pride march and part of the process of healing and growing stronger. As far as we’re concerned, the results are worth it,” she added.

SlutWalk rallies began in Toronto in 2011 in response to a local policeman who said that in order to avoid rape women should not “dress like sluts.”

This led to a widespread international movement against placing the blame on rape victims. Since then, there have been protests across the globe, including the United States, India and European countries. Rallies have been held in several Israeli cities, including Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, since 2012.