Remarkable Women: Sirin Kale

Remarkable Women: Sirin Kale

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Sirin Kale is a journalist and associate editor at Broadly. Last year her and fellow Broadly editor and friend of Birdsong Zing Tsjeng  launched Broadly’s anti-stalking campaign UNFOLLOW ME, which calls on the UK government to introduce a Stalkers Register to protect victims of serial stalkers and domestic abusers

The campaign was covered by Grazia, the Independent, Woman’s Hour, The Telegraph, and more. The UNFOLLOW ME documentary which Sirin produced, received over a million views and was played in full on the BBC. UNFOLLOW ME was a finalist in the 2019 Amnesty International Media Awards, in the innovation category. We caught up with Sirin at the Vice offices on International Women’s Day.

Content warning: this article contains explicit examples of gendered violence.

Tell us about the campaign.

Unfollow me is a campaign with two aims; firstly to raise awareness of domestic violence and stalking, and the second is to lobby the UK government to implement a Stalkers Register, which I believe would prevent these deaths that are happening every week. Molly’s death wouldn’t have happened. That’s basically what it is.

In the UK, there is no existing framework to monitor serial stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators. Police rely on victims to report such crimes, and connections to an offender’s history of prior incidents is often lost. Anti-stalking charity Paladin is calling on the UK government to introduce a Stalkers Register to protect victims of domestic abuse and stalking. Under these proposals, serial stalkers and domestic abusers would be tracked, managed, and monitored by police. Police would also be obliged to identify people that they believe to be at risk of serious harm from them, such as a new partner, and warn that person of their history of offending.

When did you start writing about gender violence and stalking?

I started writing about it as soon as I became a journalist, because i found it really interesting. Naturally it was part of my beat when I started here at Broadly, so I wrote even more.

I kept reporting on all these stories that were really horrific examples of women being murdered by their boyfriends or ex partners. I would come into work and write another new story on it, and another, and think this is so fucked up. I was thinking that there’s something more than another news story, there has to be something deeper I can look into, as part of a wider system.

One of the stories that really motivated me was of Molly McLaren, who was murdered at 23 years old in a car park in Kent. She had reported her murderer to police twice, and they didn’t do anything about it, and then he stabbed her 75 times in broad daylight. I was thinking, surely there’s something really really wrong here, how can you report it and they not do anything. I decided to do an request for Freedom of Information, to see how many women this had happened to. So far I’m up to 55 deaths.

Have you had any resistance or push back?

The response has been only positive. It’s been depressing to realise how many people are affected by similar stories. It’s quite overwhelming, but we’ve had great responses from everyone, readers, the media. The Home Affairs Select Committee have also advised that we implement a register, which the anti-stalking charity Paladin came up with. I’m really glad we could support their work.

What does Resist & Persist mean to you?

For me it means resisting the external forces of patriarchy, and resisting the internal programming you’ve been given by patriarchy. You have to really unpick the stuff you’ve learned. For example I’m still unlearning negative attitudes around sex, like lying about your number because of the shame and stigma, which is so fucked up.

You also have to be super resilient. You don’t have to be an arsehole or walk all over people. And most of all encourage resilience in others who don’t have the same opportunities or privileges that you have.

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If you or anyone you know are experiencing relationship abuse, you can seek advice confidentially via https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/.

Sophie Slater

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