How safe would you feel walking back from the supermarket to your home? Recent surveys suggest two thirds of women and girls report they have faced street harassment in the UK.Advertisement
It is a question Liberal Democrat councillor Debbie Shannon will put to Preston City Council members tomorrow as she is using her voice on the council to advocate for the ‘Our Streets Now’ campaign. It is a movement to end Public Sexual Harassment in the UK by making it a criminal offence.
The definition of Street harassment is that of a continuum of behaviour ranging from honking horns, wolf whistling and cat calling to more serious incidents such as indecent exposure, stalking and actual sexualised or bodily violence. The recipients of such abuse includes people of all genders, but women and girls are the most common victims.
Miss Shannon will be speaking in front of Preston City Council on Thursday April 15, asking for their support in a speech that says: “I want every woman and indeed, every person in Preston to feel safe and secure in our public places and I ask that we as a Council should resolve to work at a number of levels to achieve this.”
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As part of promoting the campaign Councillor Shannon proposes that “Our Streets now” wants all elected members to promote making street harassment a crime and to sign the petition which has already attracted almost 500k signatures.
In aid of supporting the movement, the Chief Executive will be asked to write a letter to the Home Secretary recommending this new offence and additionally, write to the three MPs who represent the City Council area and the Police and Crime Commissioner on the campaigns behalf, to support this campaign by lobbying ministers and also signing the petition.
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Street harassment in the UK is not covered by any specific offence, unlike in Portugal, Belgium, and France. Reports backing up the campaign have provided statistics that only 14% of pupils have been taught about public sexual harassment at school. 47% of them would not report an incident of public sexual harassment to their school because they were afraid or feared they would not be taken seriously by staff.
Councillor Shannon will say in her speech to the Council tomorrow: “In 2016, a YouGov national poll on Street Harassment found that 64% of women of all ages and 84% of young women aged 18-24 years had experienced sexual harassment in public places.
“In the past, and every day, women have changed their behaviour to mitigate this type of harassment-from carrying keys or rape alarms, to stopping going out of their homes at all- but that really is not the answer – as the statistics show, the numbers of women and girls experiencing sexualised harassment on our streets have not reduced in response those measures. We need to be addressing this specifically – at a cultural, Governmental, and legal level for real positive change to occur.”
You can sign the ‘Our Streets Now’ petition to make street harassment a crime here.
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