Hundreds of women took to the streets of central London to protest violence against women and girls.
Supporters of the Million Women Rise (MWR) collective walked through the West End shopping district in central London on Saturday to Trafalgar Square, claiming that failure to act against male violence amounted to state or sanctioned abuse.
The group drummed, chanted and carried banners reading “together we can end male violence” and “women are not the problem” during a protest ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday.
Among them was Farah Naz, the aunt of murdered lawyer Zara Aleena, who told the crowd that she “always hopes” that the system, which is “broken in all directions” and fails to protect women, can be changed.
Shortcomings in the probation service were among the problems that meant a known perpetrator could have murdered Ms. Aleena.
Jordan McSweeney, 29, was sentenced to life imprisonment and a minimum of 38 years in prison after pleading guilty to the sexual assault and murder of a 35-year-old law graduate in Ilford, east London last June.
Mrs. Naz, her voice breaking, said: “The loss of Zara is the loss of society.”
“Zara brought me, my sister and friends here, but we are here for all women, all girls to make a difference and give meaning to the tragedy that happened to us.
“We are traumatized but at the same time we are really encouraged by the public support from all sectors and leaders.
“We hope that the situation of other women and girls can change.”
She added: “Today’s protest sheds light on the errors and a system that is broken in all areas.
“We know from Zara’s case that the probation officer made a number of mistakes, huge mistakes that are so painful for us as a family and for us as a society that we need to know about because it means women are not safe.”
The number of women murdered is a sign that something is wrong, she added.
Ms Naz said: “We already know that domestic violence leads to so many deaths and because it is not treated like any other form of violence, we have seen a lack of convictions which then frees men to murder women.
“We know that probation collapsed because of the privatization that happened and then led to the corruption of a system that was not cared for.
“We know that reviews have been written since other people were murdered and recommendations were not followed up.
“We know government leaders have let us down.
“We know the systems have let us down, but there are also people working to change that.”
Danyal Hussein was sentenced to a minimum of 35 years in prison after murdering sisters Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, in 2020.
Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis, a pair of Met Police officers who took photos of the murdered sisters and shared them on WhatsApp groups, were later jailed.
In a video message, Mina Smallman, the sisters’ mother, told the marchers: “We have so much important work to do.
“The slogan I would like us all to adopt is ‘it’s time’. We’ve had enough of talking. We’ve had enough of the rhetoric. Now we demand that those in power put the safety of girls and women first.”
The MWR also noted that serial rapist David Carrick retained his job as a Metropolitan Police officer despite multiple reports against him, allowing him to commit a number of crimes over a period of nearly 20 years.
The disgraced 48-year-old PC, who has been described as a “monster” and “evil” by some of his dozen victims, has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 32 years after carrying out a “catalogue of violent and brutal” sexual assaults between 2003 and 2020.
The news comes after London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote to Home Secretary Suella Braverman this week, calling for “radical reform” of the police dismissal process.
He said the crimes committed by Carrick and fellow Met officer Wayne Couzens who murdered Sarah Everard showed the system was “not fit for purpose” and called for serving officers who had committed a “serious crime” to automatic discharge.
The Home Office dismissed Mr Khan’s proposals as an attempt to “cover up years of failure”.
Contact our news team by emailing email@example.com.
For more stories like this, check out our news page.