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  • Aiia Maasarwe's father Saeed Maasarwe is seen at the vigil for his daughter on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia, January 18, 2019. Picture taken January 18, 2019

    Aiia Maasarwe's father Saeed Maasarwe is seen at the vigil for his daughter on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia, January 18, 2019. Picture taken January 18, 2019 | Photo: Reuters file.

Published 20 January 2019

3,000 protesters gathered at Hyde Park, Sydney to demonstrate against gender violence in Australia, exacerbated by the recent rape and murder of 21-year-old Aiiwa Massarwe.

Thousands took to major cities in Australia to stage a coordinated series of protests calling for women’s equality and against gender violence, and in memory of the recent murder of Aiia Maasarwe.

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Nearly 3,000 demonstrators gathered in Sydney alone. Among those present were survivors of domestic violence, women’s rights activists, and indigenous leaders.

Some protesters highlighted domestic violence as a key issue that needs more visibility. Many others also held signs referencing the alleged murder of Aiia Maasarwe, according to ABC news.

Massarwe, a 21-year-old female student from Palestine, was returning home from a night out at a comedy club when she was raped and then murdered by 20-year-old Codey Herrmann, who has been arrested and charged for his crimes.

“I feel so bad that she had to see that by herself...but I hope and I know she is in a better place,” said her sister. The family is awaiting Aiia’s body to be returned home.

Bree Lee, an author, rights activist, and survivor of sexual assault, commented on the sources of strength and projection of the women’s movement saying they need “anger to survive, but hope to strategize.”

“It is so, so hard to keep an olive branch in the palm of your hand when you need your keys between your fingers,” said Lee.

Yumi Stynes, television and radio presenter and host of the event at Hyde Park, addressed the crowd saying, “We have the right to be safe, to claim our space, to be respected and have our voices heard — so I want to hear your voice right now!”

3,000 protestors gathered at Hyde Park to protest against gender violence in Australia, moved by the recent rape and murder of 21-year-old Aiiwa Massarwe.

Lee believes the situation in Australia, as in many other parts of the world, needs to be addressed by transforming the very structure of society, “The statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that perpetrators do not need a weapon, they do not need the cover of nightfall — the patriarchy gives them everything they need to perpetrate sexual and physical violence against us.” 

In 2018, 69 women were murdered across Australia, according to ABC news.

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