A small group of protesters gathered outside an Oxford Union talk by George Galloway MP on Monday, disputing his comments on rape.
The protest follows controversial opinions from the Respect MP in his podcast ‘Good Night with George Galloway’ regarding allegations against Julian Assange. Particular offence was caused by his comment that sex with a sleeping partner does not always constitute rape but is simply “bad sexual ettiquette”. He stated, “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion” as “you’re already in the sex game with them”.
The protesters, mainly members of the Oxford Feminist Network, protested the arrival of George Galloway, who was giving a talk entitled ‘A World At War’. They displayed banners and posters with slogans including “My Assault in Not My Fault”, “Wake Up George” and “George, no means no.”
Strong criticism to his opinions has come from diverse sources in the political world including the Socialist Workers’ Party, Ed Milliband and Baroness Warsi. The National Union of Students has passed a “no platform” motion against the politician, which prevents any NUS officers speaking alongside him.
Oxford Union President John Lee stated “There was no controversy surrounding our invitation to Mr. Galloway. Some questions were asked in light of Mr. Galloway’s comments relating to Julian Assange’s situation and the subsequent NUS ban on him speaking at their events. I have said before that our invitation was sent out long before this ban.”
“All the groups who chose to protest Mr Galloway’s visit informed me in good time of their intentions. We were very happy to accommodate them.”He continued, “I’m sure you will agree that Mr Galloway is a very topical speaker, whom Union members would like to hear from and challenge. The best evidence of this was the turnout for the event – it is rare to have a packed chamber at 2.30 on a Monday afternoon.”
When the long queue of Union members and guests entered the chamber, the group of protesters began a chant of “If you’re asleep or if you’re awake, no means no and rape is rape!” One student from Oxford Brookes University described Gallaway’s comments as “completely horrendous,” arguing that they “excused rapists from what they do.”
She added, “for him to say that having sex with a sleeping woman is not rape but ‘poor sexual etiquette’ shocked me to the core. This opinion from such a prominent person will be picked up by people and believed. I think that is just encouraging rape culture and making our society a dangerous place to live.”
When approached for comment, a spokesperson for the Office of George Galloway, commented, “We understand there were around eight protestors and we respect their right to protest. However George Galloway holds the view that there are much more appropriate targets for them to protest against.’