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Call For Public Harassment Of Young Women And Girls To Become Criminal Offence

Call For Public Harassment Of Young Women And Girls To Become Criminal Offence

There are new calls to make public harassment a criminal offence after it was found that half of all young women were harassed in the UK during the summer.

A new survey by women's rights organisations Out Streets Now and Plan International UK found a disturbing 51 per cent of young women in Britain faced a range of harassing behaviours, including catcalling, upskirting and flashing, as well as being followed or groped while out on the street.

Over 50 per cent of girls reported being harassed (Credit: Unsplash)
Over 50 per cent of girls reported being harassed (Credit: Unsplash)

The shocking study also found 19 per cent of women even experienced harassment during the first national lockdown in March this year, despite calls to stay indoors and respect social distancing measures.

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The survey polled 1000 parents of girls and women aged 14-21, and 1010 girls within this age range.

Now, both groups are calling for street harassment of girls and young women to be made illegal, and are launching the new #CrimeNotCompliment campaign.

Maya Tutton, 21, founded Our Streets Now with her sister Gemma, 16, after seeing the level of her sibling's harassment.

Girls between 13-21 responded to the survey (Credit: Pexels)
Girls between 13-21 responded to the survey (Credit: Pexels)
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Speaking to Sky News, Maya explained: "This has become a normal part of being a girl and that is not okay.

"We have to draw a line in the sand and say we deserve to feel safe and we deserve to be safe in public."

Gemma said she has experienced sexual harassment from boys and men for over five years, with perpetrators ranging from boys the same age as her to men old enough to be her grandfather.

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She explained that it was one incident from when she was 13 that sticks in her memory.

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"I was 13 years old and walking home from school when I came across a group of men who started sexually harassing me," she told Sky News.

"I turned around and I said 'Guys, I'm 13'. They looked at me, laughed, and told me age didn't matter to them.

Women have spoken out about unwanted male attention (Credit: Pexels)
Women have spoken out about unwanted male attention (Credit: Pexels)

"That really brought home to me the fact that public sexual harassment is about power and that it really wasn't my fault."

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The survey also found 80 per cent worry their daughter will experience public sexual harassment during her lifetime, and one in 10 are worried their daughters younger than 11 will be targeted.

However, there was general uncertainty about how to deal with harassment on the streets. Among those surveyed, a third of parents were unsure about were to report harassment, while 70 per cent of parents who did have daughters experience harassment did not report it to higher authorities.

It is hoped that criminalising public harassment will send a clear message that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable.

"Girls feel that it won't be taken seriously," Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International UK, said.

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"Sometimes they feel that they might be blamed. They are not to blame. The people to blame are the harassers and they're the people who need to change their behaviour."

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash

Topics: Life News, News, women, UK

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Kimberley Bond

Kim is a journalist at Tyla, and has previously worked at the Evening Standard, Radio Times as well as several national newspapers. A showbiz obsessive and a television fanatic, Kim is particularly interested in celebrity gossip, A-list events and the latest releases on either the big or small screen. Contact her at [email protected]