Young people want action to end street harassment

11 October 2018
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Street harassment highlighted as part of global campaign to end gender-based violence.

New global research shows three quarters (75 per cent) of young people think governments should legislate to stop street harassment in order to make them feel less vulnerable. The figures have been gathered by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) as part of the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign.

Through UNICEF’s U-Report platform nearly 10,000 young people offered thoughts and first-hand experiences of harassment, including how they feel it undermines their safety.

The study indicates how girls modify their behaviour to avoid streets or public places because they fear harassment. Identifying the chief change in their behaviours, 30 per cent said they avoid crowds of men or boys on the street while 23 per cent say they do not go out after dark. Public harassment ranges from telling girls and women to smile, shouting at them from passing vehicles, making sexual comments, threatening or touching without consent.

Overall three quarters of young people (75 per cent) support governments adopting legislation against street harassment. Broken down by gender, a higher percentage of girls (81 per cent) support changes to legislation, along with 74 per cent of boys.

When asked what they thought motivates male harassers, the most common answer among girls (37 per cent) is harassment makes perpetrators feel powerful. While the most common answer from boys was harassers thought their behaviour was a compliment (28 per cent).

Poll results also include solutions. Overall 43 per cent believe consent training in schools is the best way to fix the problem, followed by 25 per cent supporting government funded campaigns.

Previous research conducted by WAGGGS in 2017 showed 70 per cent of girls felt streets were the most unsafe places in their communities. The findings also showed half (49 per cent) felt they could not move freely around their communities without the fear of violence. More than two fifths (41 per cent) felt most at risk on the way to school and nearly three quarters (71 per cent) felt sexual harassment was a problem at their school or university.

The 16 Days campaign is a global event, designed to create a unified international voice, demanding greater action to stop gender-based violence. It runs from 25 November to 10 December. The WAGGGS theme for 2018 is “Our Streets Too”. Girl Guides and Girl Scouts globally are encouraged to identify the most unsafe streets in their communities, then plan ways to drive awareness about what can be done to make them less dangerous.

WAGGGS’ chief executive Sarah Nancollas said all girls deserve to feel safe and comfortable moving around streets and their communities without the threat of harassment.

"Girls should not have to change their plans or compromise on opportunities because of safety concerns," she said.

“We want to see governments take strong positions on harassment, including legislation, but also to put measures in place to change the thinking and beliefs which underpin this behaviour. This research shows young people, both male and female also recognise this is a problem and support action.”

042015 Zambia Exploring sexual harrassment at ACTIVATE

Join us this 16 Days

WAGGGS will be sharing 16 Days of Activism content across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #OurStreetsToo. To support this cause sign the petition here. See the full poll results here.

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