Street Harassment Of Women Could Soon Be A Criminal Offence
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A group of MPs are calling for the UK government to pass legislation criminalising sexual harassment against women.
Labour MP Harriet Harman and the Conservative chair of the women and equalities select committee, Caroline Noakes, are putting pressure on the government to make amendments to the controversial police, crime, sentencing and courts bill.
The pair are requesting that the government adapt the bill to provide greater protection for women against harassment and misogyny.
As it stands, sexual harassment in its own right is not a criminal offence under UK law - as pointed out by Tyla - ‘you can be prosecuted for dropping litter, but not for harassing a woman on the street’.
Kerb crawling is illegal, but only if done to obtain sexual services, and if it causes public nuisance under the 2001 Criminal Justice and Police Act.
Ms Harman said: “It makes absolutely no sense that kerb crawling is an offence if its aim is to solicit prostitution, but kerb crawling a schoolgirl to shout sexualised abuse at her is not. The law needs to be changed.”
Ms Noakes said: "When I spoke to women, they were living with this on a daily basis. Sexual harassment, catcalling, is rife, it's unwanted, in some cases, it can be downright intimidating and scary.
"And it is absolutely no way for any kind of civilised society to conduct itself."
Other MPs including the Conservatives Peter Bottomley and Andrew Mitchell, and the Green party MP, Caroline Lucas, are also urging for street harassment to be criminalised, and for stricter controls over the use of a complainant’s sexual history in rape trials.
A recent poll carried by YouGov for The Independent, found that seven out of ten women saw current measures to stop sexual assault as ‘inadequate’ with 75% saying men don't ‘pull their weight’ in keeping women and girls safe from violence.
Women's rights campaigner, Shaista Aziz, said: “This research shows again how much work society must do to challenge and dismantle patriarchy and the harm and damage it's doing to women and girls.
"The responses show again how low levels of trust are in the criminal justice and policing system to hold perpetrators to account."
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