Conceived in outrage but nurtured in the spirit of equality and justice, the first march against male violence towards women took place in Belgium in 1976.

It was a symbolic candle-lit protest by women attending the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women at the ways in which violence affects and blights the lives of women across the world.

The following year women in West Germany took up the torch, demanding the right to move freely without harrassment and sexual assault. In the UK rape crisis centres were established, one of the earliest in Glasgow, but even after the best part of a decade of active feminism, it was largely left to Women’s Aid to campaign against domestic abuse and brave individuals to identify and publicly shame gropers on public transport.

That changed in 1977. This was the mid-point of the murders committed by the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. Women were angered by the apparent downplaying of the murders of prostitues by police and press. Then a young female student was killed but the police advice to women not to go out at night reinforced the attitude that victims could be blamed for being out alone at night. This triggered the first Reclaim the Night march in November 1977 in Leeds. It was a timely reminder to those in power that many women have to go out at night to earn a living and that, in addition to prostitutes, they include workers on whom those in comfortable day jobs depend: office cleaners, nurses and bar and restaurant staff. More profoundly, it was a statement that women have a right to expect to be able go about freely and unmolested. This seems a simple tenet of civilised society, yet it took years to chip away at the ingrained suspicion that women who are sexually assaulted must be at fault.

It took much longer and considerable courage from victims to achieve a recognition that most rapes are not carried out by a stranger lurking in a dark alleyway but by someone known, including the men women should most be able to trust: husbands and fathers. Giving date rape a name acknowledged its reality.

Since devolution, administrations of various political stripes in power at Holyrood have made considerable strides towards tackling the problem of violence against women. Notably, in 2004 Margaret Curran, then Communities Minister, announced £1.86m for rape crisis centres in recognition of their historic underfunding. The current Scottish Government is committed to continue funding work to deal with violence against women but there are concerns about devolving this to area partnerships. A review of rape and sexual offences has resulted in a new Act that addresses many of the concerns of campaigners on behalf of victims.

However, in an age of global communications we ignore at our peril the reality that violence against women is a universal problem. Despite real progress and Scottish Government funding for hard-hitting campaigns such as “This is not an invitation to rape me” featuring young women in revealing clothes, a new generation is being sucked into a culture of objectifying women. Isabelle Kerr, co-ordinator at Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre, knows from the work they do in schools that the problem is the availability of pornography. “It’s on everyone’s phone. As well as Youtube, rapetube is freely accessible.” That and sites where boys exchange comments on explicit photographs of women is skewing attitudes among teenagers. As a result Rape Crisis is seeing a large increase in teenage victims.

In the next fortnight women (and men) will be out en masse to reclaim the streets in towns and cities throughout Britain to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Join them in Edinburgh tomorrow, Aberdeen on Sunday, Glasgow on Monday or Galashiels on December 9. Women must continue to claim the right to be out at night but there is a new and urgent task undreamed of 30 years ago: we must reclaim the net.