Under measures to make the streets safer, public sexual harassment such as wolf-whistling and catcalling might become a crime.
Proposed by government plans, this shall be made illegal in England and Wales. It is part of a larger strategy to combat violence against women and girls (VAWG).
The VAWG strategy will also include the launch of a ‘StreetSafe’ app, which will allow women to record locations where they do not feel safe, as well as a public health campaign targeting criminal behaviour.
In addition, as part of this policy, a new national police chief will be appointed to combat violence against women and girls, and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will establish a 24-hour helpline for rape and sexual assault survivors.
🚨 | NEW: Street harassment such as wolf-whistling could become a specific crime under government plans to protect women and girls
— Politics For All (@PoliticsForAlI) July 21, 2021
Home Secretary, Priti Patel, vowed that action will be taken against harassment in England and Wales.
“We will continue to look at gaps in existing law and how an offence for sexual harassment could address those. I am committed to ensuring not only that the laws are there, but that they work in practice and women and girls are confident their concerns will be taken seriously.”
Following the public outcry over Sarah Everard‘s kidnapping and murder, the government received 180,000 replies to help design a strategy to better protect women and girls.
It is sad that we have come to the point that an app to signal whenever we feel in danger is created.
It is sad that every time we go out, we are expected to have a male figure with us for protection.
It is sad that I am told to text you when I get home just because of the dangers out there.
Patel added that; “It is important that the police enforce the law and give women the confidence that if they report an incident, it will be dealt with”
Following the government’s response, anti-harassment group Our Streets Now issued the following statement:
We welcome the government’s recognition that urgent and radical changes are needed to address the pervasive issue of public sexual harassment (PSH). Getting PSH on the agenda has been the result of tireless campaigning by the grassroots, youth-led Our Streets Now team.
Two years ago, this form of harassment wasn’t even recognised as a form of VAWG. Now it’s a number one priority, acknowledged and addressed by multiple government departments, from the Home Office to the Department for Transport.
Our Statement on the Government's Violence against Women and Girls strategy.
This is a big first step in recognising the radical changes needed to address public sexual harassment.
Now, we fight on to ensure the necessary next steps are taken.. pic.twitter.com/JDUtWeXSav
— Our Streets Now (@OurStreetsNow) July 21, 2021
This law was actually discussed in 2018, when Melani Onn, Labour MP, argued that catcalling at women and sexist abuse in public should be considered hate crimes.
While Jess Philips, the shadow minister for domestic violence, welcomed this strategy, she also added that just become law is written, does not mean it is reinforced. Therefore, a lot more has to happen for this law to actually be taken seriously.
Philips is right but we have to look at the bright side and agree that this is a big step. Even though it is sad that we have come to the point of reinforcing such laws, this has to be done.
While there are laws regarding catcalling here in Malta, clearly there are not being enforced as they can easily be dismissed without actual evidence.
What are your thoughts on this?