Everyone should be able to walk down a street without fearing or being harassed or assaulted. It is deeply concerning that UN Women UK has recently found that over 70% of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment in public.
We urgently need action to address this appalling behaviour.
I firmly believe a new law which makes public sexual harassment a specific criminal offence needs to be introduced. This is vital to helping make meaningful change in the everyday experiences of women and girls.
The Government has committed to publishing a new strategy on tackling violence against women and girls, and has said that street harassment will be a part of this strategy. However, this strategy will not be published until later this year, and I believe we need to act urgently.
I believe the Government must now commit to working on a cross-party basis to introduce a long overdue public sexual harassment law to protect women and girls.
I have written to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and asked her to take action on this front. I have posted a copy of this letter below for you to see.
I also believe there is a need for a long overdue change in the law so that misogynistic acts are treated as the serious hate crimes that they are.
The Law Commission is currently undertaking a review into hate crime, looking at how to make current legislation more effective and to consider if there should be additional protected characteristics. I welcome the fact that it has proposed that sex or gender should be added to the protected characteristics for the first time.
While the UK Government has said it is waiting for the outcome of the Law Commission’s review before making long-term decisions in this area, it has announced that on an experimental basis, it will ask police forces to identify and record any crimes of violence against the person, including stalking and harassment, as well as sexual offences, where the victim perceives it to have been motivated by hostility based on their sex. It is aiming for the experimental collection of data to begin this autumn.
I welcome this announcement as I believe it is a step in the right direction towards ending the sexual harassment of women and girls and bringing engrained misogyny into the light.
I can assure you that I will continue to support efforts to criminalise public sexual harassment and end the horrific mistreatment of women and girls in the UK and around the world.