342 26/08/2012 A participant in SlutWalk Johannesburg carries placards denouncing rape as other marchers make their way down Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg making a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Johannesburg - Hundreds of scantily clad women - and men - took to the streets of northern Joburg on Saturday to protest against the idea that women are responsible for being raped because of the way they dress.

They took part in the 2012 SlutWalk, an annual event which aims to support victims of rape and to challenge the idea that “sluts” ask to be raped because of their clothes.

The idea for the walk began in Toronto, Canada, when a police officer suggested that if women wanted to stay safe, they should “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”.

It has since spread to other countries across the globe.

The walk began at the sports fields of Zoo Lake. The crowd then moved north on Jan Smuts Avenue before looping around and coming back.

Dressing like a “slut” is not compulsory. The idea of the walk is that people can choose what to wear.

Some wore “normal” clothes, and one woman went in the opposite direction and dressed up like a nun.

“I thought this was an ideal place to wear [the nun’s outfit],” said Bev Lovemore.

She said she had worn it to a party recently and joked that it had become “a habit”.

Many joining this year’s walk – including some of the men who attended – wore high heels, fishnet stockings and low-cut tops.

“The idea that women are the cause of being raped by the way they dress is not fair, and that’s why I’m here,” said Chris Botes, who wore a short skirt, high heels and fishnet stockings.

Some people in the crowd carried boards or had written messages on their bodies, such as “I dress to empower me, not for you to overpower me” and “Your body is a wonderland, by admittance only”.

Passing cars brought loud cheers and whistles as they hooted for the crowd, while some people walking by craned their necks to take in the unusual sight.

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The Star