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Street harassment gets recognised as gender-based violence

#ISayItsNotOK: Street harassment gets recognised as gender-based violence

Key things you need to know about street harassment in the Government’s refreshed Strategy to End Violence Against Women and Girls.

This week, we received some really important news: the UK Government has recognised street harassment as a form of gender-based violence, in its refreshed Strategy to End Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).

It’s a significant step and it’s due – in no small part – to everyone who supported our #ISayItsNotOK campaign last year.

We ran the campaign because girls and young women told us that they are regularly harassed in public places – with 66% saying they’d been sexually harassed and 38% saying they’d been catcalled and verbally harassed at least once a month.

The Government’s refreshed strategy states that, ‘whether it’s in the workplace, on the street, or as part of domestic or sexual abuse; sexual harassment in any situation is unacceptable.’ 

It sends a clear message that street harassment will no longer be tolerated, with girls and young women having the right to move freely in the streets and in public without fear of being abused.

We know that exposure to negative gender stereotypes can fuel harmful attitudes towards women which create a fertile environment for VAWG.

– Strategy to End Violence Against Women and Girls, 2019

Ending violence against women and girls

The good news doesn’t end there. Our research called for a number of policy changes to the refreshed strategy, and we’re pleased to see others have also been included:

1. It’s time to listen to girls

We know that sexual harassment disproportionately affects girls and is experienced in different ways by LGBTIQ+ and BAME girls. We’re pleased to see the Government recognising ‘the strong intersectionality between sexual harassment and other forms of marginalisation and disadvantage, such as racialised sexual harassment experienced by BME women.’

2. We need to build a picture of what’s happening

The strategy states that, ‘to further tackle sexual harassment in the workplace and in public places, we will… gather regular data on the prevalence and nature of sexual harassment.’

3. Boys can generate change

The strategy recommends commissioning new research on ‘what works’ to engage men and boys on challenging issues such as gender and healthy relationships. This is someting we're already working on – we're currently conducting our own research to support the delivery of our global Champions of Change programme for boys.

4. Young people need good quality Relationships and Sex Education

The Government has committed to encouraging schools to roll out good quality education on the concepts of ‘sexual consent, sexual exploitation, abuse, grooming, harassment and domestic abuse, including coercive and controlling behaviour, and how these can affect current and future relationships.’

Fathema, 17
“I’m so used to it, it’s just become normal. You think to speak up but because they’re boys, men, you feel like you’ll get in trouble and anything could happen.” - Fathema, 17, Carmarthen

Our campaigning doesn’t end here

We’re looking forward to working with the Government, to ensure the refreshed Strategy to End Violence Against Women and Girls is delivered effectively (you can see its 2016-2020 action plan here).

To make that happen, we need to see a commitment to invest in local strategies and budgets to end sexual harassment.

We need to see young people consulted on the education they need, and data on sexual harassment broken down by gender and age, so we can build a picture of the true scale and nature of the harassment of girls and women in public.

Most importantly, we also need to make sure girls’ voices are listened to – because they are the experts of their own experiences and the changes they want to see.

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