Women and girls facing ‘routine and relentless’ harassment in public places, says Commons committee
MPs are calling on the Government to tackle the “routine and relentless” harassment of women and girls in public places throughout Britain.
A newly published report from the Women and Equalities Committee insists that “there is far more that could be done” by lawmakers to combat harassment “on public transport, in bars and clubs, in online spaces and at university, in parks and on the street”.
“Experienced at a young age, sexual harassment becomes ‘normalised’ as girls move through life: it shapes the messages boys and girls receive about what is acceptable behaviour between men and women, and teaches girls to minimise their experiences of abuse,” the report says.
The 11-strong committee, who spent nine months investigating the issue, point to the findings of “significant research” that suggests a link between pornography, sexist attitudes and sexually aggressive behaviours, including violence.
Committee chair Maria Miller said: “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 – all of this keeps women and girls unequal.”
The report includes a seven-point plan of action for the Government:
- Publish a new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy to improve data collection on harassment cases.
- Commission further research on the causes of sexual harassment and how to prevent it.
- Ban all non-consensual sharing of intimate sexual images.
- Take an evidence-based approach to addressing the “harms of pornography”, similar to road safety and anti-smoking campaigns.
- Train and bus operating companies should be tougher on sexual harassment and block access to pornography.
- Amend the Licensing Act 2003 to ensure pub, bar and club owners have more power to tackle harassment, and consult local women’s groups before granting licences to strip clubs.
- Universities should have a legal obligation to have policies outlawing sexual harassment.
Responding to the report, a government spokesperson said: “The Government has made protecting women and girls from all forms of violence, and supporting victims and survivors a key priority.
“To support the Government’s commitment to tackling violence against women and girls, we have pledged £100m in funding until 2020 and will be updating our Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy to ensure that we are doing all that we can to tackle crimes which disproportionately impact on women.”