Relentless Street Harassment Faced By Women and Girls, Report Reveals

Maurice Richmond
By Maurice Richmond,
updated on Oct 23, 2018

Relentless Street Harassment Faced By Women and Girls, Report Reveals

MPs have urged the government to implement key recommendations to combat street harassment, which members of the Women and Equalities Committee (WAEC) say has become the norm

It comes as a survey commissioned by the WAEC found that 72% of 1,659 people polled believe women and girls are having to change their behaviour, including getting off at an earlier bus stop, or even pretending to be on their phone in order to avoid being sexually harassed in public.

The survey, which concludes a nine-month inquiry by the committee, also found that 72% of people questioned found men wolf whistling at a woman they don’t know unacceptable.

A report published by the committee, consisting of 11 cross-party MPs, has urged the government to show leadership and criticised “missed opportunities” by politicians to implement a preventative approach to sexual harassment of women in public places.

There are also calls for more research into the negative impact of watching pornography.

It reads: “The government has previously committed to tackling harmful social norms that underpin sexual harassment, but we have seen little evidence of specific or comprehensive work underway to do this.

“Opportunities to embed a preventative approach in schools, through media regulation, through public awareness campaigns and through crime policy (such as the Modern Crime Strategy), for example, are being missed.

“The government must show leadership in seeking to change the cultural acceptability of sexual harassment. It should develop a long-term, evaluated programme of public campaigns to tackle the attitudes that underpin sexual harassment, targeted at both adults and children.”

The committee is calling on the government to implement the following steps:

  • Force train and bus operators to take tougher action against sexual harassment and block the viewing of pornography on public transport
  • Ban all non-consensual sharing of intimate images
  • Publish a new "Violence Against Women and Girls" strategy
  • Create a public campaign to change attitudes
  • Take an evidence-based approach to addressing the harms of pornography, along the lines of road safety or anti-smoking campaigns
  • Introduce tougher laws to ensure pub landlords and bar licensees take action on sexual harassment - including training taxi drivers
  • Make local authorities consult women's groups before licensing strip clubs
  • Make it a legal obligation for universities to have policies outlawing sexual harassment

Maria Miller, Committee chairwoman, has claimed the government “almost ignores” sexual harassment.

Speaking to talkRADIO, the Tory MP for Basingstoke said: “The government does a lot on domestic violence and they should be applauded for that, but their strategy which is really extensive, almost ignores sexual harassment which is the most common form of abuse.”

She continued: “It can make women and girls scared and stressed, avoid certain routes home at night or certain train carriages, wear headphones while out running. Women feel the onus is put on them to avoid 'risky' situations - all of this keeps women and girls unequal.”

In 2017, Mrs Miller revealed she had experienced sexual harassment, revealing to the Guardian: “Sexual harassment – of course, we all have.

“I probably speak pretty bluntly to people and it’s not something I would tolerate. But, I think, perhaps, if you haven’t got that level of self-confidence, then you won’t deal with it.

“I think you and I would agree that sexual harassment will happen on a very regular basis to women in the workplace. I mean it would be too numerous to give you an example.”

Sian Norris first experienced sexual harassment aged just 14 while standing at a bus stop in her school uniform.

Speaking to the Victoria Derbyshire Show, she says she saw men beeping their car horns and shouting through windows at her.

Sian said: "I think this is important to recognise this was happening when I was a child.

"When I was older, I had men follow me down the street talking about what they wanted to do to me sexually. One of the most significant incidents involved men chanting sexualised insults at me.

"I have been sexually assaulted on buses, harassed on trains and in bars and clubs. Most recently crossing the road on the way to the supermarket. This is the litany of harassment and comments that women live with from a very young age.

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