2016 marked 40 years since the founding of the group Women Against Rape (WAR). In these decades, WAR has campaigned consistently to combat rape culture and end the marital rape exemption in English law. Utilising a number of strikingly innovative methods, such as holding a ‘public trial’ of senior judges and politicians in Trafalgar Square in July 1977, WAR first caught the attention of the national press in the 1970s, but has only attracted the attention of historians within recent years. This year, Adrian Williamson published his article ‘The Law and the Politics of Marital Rape in England, 1945-1994’ in Women’s History Review, which was followed by a witness seminar on the subject, in which WAR representatives took part.

WAR
Women Against Rape, London, 16 July 1977.

Though they have begun to be recognised as a group of significant historical interest, no concerted effort has been made to look at WAR in its own right. This event seeks to do just that. In particular, it aims to examine and discuss:

  • The emergence of WAR, and the group’s early years;
  • The activism and methods of the group, from its establishment in 1976 to the present day;
  • The emphasis which WAR placed on marriage (as an institution of rape), and to discuss the group’s engagement with the concept of marriage more broadly;
  • Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP), with whom WAR still works, and of how WAR engaged with race. This event also marks BWRAP’s 25th anniversary;
  • WAR’s current campaigns, activities, and the impact of austerity on their work.

This event will take the form of a panel discussion. Chaired by Dr Lucy Delap, the panel will boast activists past and present from WAR and BWRAP, the legal historian Adrian Williamson, and other experts in the field.

The event will be hosted by the University of Cambridge, generously supported by the MPhil Modern British History sub-committee, whom the organisers wish to thank, and will take place on Tuesday 7th February 2017 to coincide with Sexual Violence Awareness Week. The event will be held in the Old Library of Pembroke College, Cambridge from 17:00-19:00.

All enquiries to the organisers:

Max Denton mwd33@cam.ac.uk
Eva Hodgkin emh69@cam.ac.uk
Bethan Johnson bj279@cam.ac.uk
Georgia Oman gio20@cam.ac.uk
George Severs gjs53@cam.ac.uk

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