Some women are afraid to walk the streets
The Daily Express is backing these calls in a bid to help stamp out the problem and make Britain’s streets safer for women. The letter, sent yesterday, said: “Education that builds an understanding of the root of causes of sexual harassment and violence is the long-term solution to creating safer schools, streets and societies.
“Young people must be made aware of the attitudes, beliefs and cultures that are normalised within our society and that lead to a spectrum of violence against women, girls and marginalised genders including public sexual harassment, online harassment, abuse and assault.
“And at the heart of this education must be the awareness of how gender based violence intersects with wider systems of power and oppression.”
The letter, signed by groups including Beyond Equality, Bold Voices and Be Her Lead, wants local leaders to make a pledge to share resources and training with teachers to support them in tackling violence against women, girls and marginalised genders.
Children’s charity Plan International UK found 80 percent of parents worry their daughter will experience PSH.
Campaigner Ambrin, 19, said lawmakers needed to recognise PSH as a “rotten and corrosive” part of society.
Ambrin, from London, joined five other women to discuss the issue with Home Secretary Priti Patel in February.
The student, who has been sexually harassed several times on public transport, called the meeting a “powerful moment”.
She said: “I think [meeting the Home Secretary] was such a positive experience to really see and be able to feel like this issue is being recognised by the Home Office.
“They could have invited any girl to go and talk to the Home Secretary and she would have had loads and loads of stories. It felt quite privileged to be able to share my particular experiences. She really listened to our stories and recognised that it was a problem”.
Ambrin described how a cultural shift against PSH was not enough, adding “we really want and need a legislative shift”.
A staggering 97 percent of women aged 18 to 24 years old have been sexually harassed, figures from UN Women UK showed.
Comment by Ambrin
I am only nineteen-years-old, yet I have lost count of the number of times I have been sexually harassed in public.
I have been groped on the tube.
I’ve had my headphones pulled out of my ears so that a stranger can talk to me.
There are bus stops I won’t go to because I know from previous experience to avoid them.
And I’m not alone: research by Plan International UK found that over half of girls experienced street harassment last summer.
The threat of public sexual harassment is always there, reminding me that the streets are not my own.
And it has worsened during the pandemic – towns are emptier and there are fewer places open to escape harassment.
Plan International UK’s research also found that one in five girls experienced public sexual harassment during the first lockdown.
With #MeToo there has been lots of attention on sexual harassment but in reality very little has changed for girls.
In my experience, the only step I take to avoid sexual harassment that actually works is being with a male friend or telling someone I have a boyfriend.
The mental impact of someone respecting a fake boyfriend more than me is hugely undermining.
That’s why we need a bigger change – a change in the law.
This is what I told the Home Secretary when I met and shared my experiences with her earlier this year through my work with Plan International UK and Our Streets Now’s #CrimeNotCompliment campaign.
Our laws inform our culture, and, as it stands, there is no law that fully protects women and girls from public sexual harassment.
In the UK, you can be fined for dropping litter in the street but face no consequences for harassing a woman in public – how can that be right?
Getting the chance to share my experiences with the Home Secretary was a privilege – yet there are thousands of other girls experiencing frightening and demeaning harassment who don’t get the chance to speak their truth to power.
The Home Secretary agreed that public sexual harassment is a “rotten and corrosive” part of our society.
These are strong words but now we need to see action.
That’s why I urge you to join our #CrimeNotCompliment campaign, calling for public sexual harassment to become a criminal offence, so that women and girls can come a step closer to living a life without fear.
• Ambrin is a youth ambassador for Plan UK