Government failing to address the issue
Following a 9 month inquiry into sexual harassment of women and girls in public, MPs have concluded that while the Government has pledged to eliminate sexual harassment of women and girls by 2030 under its international obligations, there is no evidence of any programme to achieve this.
Moreover, sexual harassment is almost entirely absent in the current cross-departmental strategy for tackling Violence Against Women and Girls.
The Government’s report, published today, finds that harassment in public places is relentless and becomes ‘normalised’ as girls grow up, contributing to a wider negative cultural effect on society.
The report says that social attitudes, including disrespect of women and an assumption by some men that they can behave in this way, underpin sexual harassment.
The report outlined seven key recommendations to tackle street harassment:
- 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
- Tougher laws to ensure pub landlords take action on sexual harassment – and make local authorities consult women’s groups before licensing strip clubs
- Make it a legal obligation for universities to have policies outlawing sexual harassment
Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, said:
Sexual harassment in public places is a regular experience for many women and girls in the street, in bars and clubs, on buses and trains, at university and online. It is the most common form of violence against women and girls and the damage is far-reaching. And yet most of it goes unreported.
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. It is not acceptable that women have to change their behaviour to avoid sexual harassment. It has a wider effect on society, contributing to a culture in which sexual violence can be normalised or excused. All of this keeps women and girls unequal.
The #MeToo movement shows that we must confront some deeply uncomfortable truths about our society and the attitudes some men hold. Laws alone cannot solve the cultural acceptability of sexual harassment. That is why we have set out a series of practical measures that Government, public transport operators, local authorities and universities should implement immediately. Public places must be made safe for all women and girls.