After Sarah Everard’s death, the government have announced some new measures aiming to improve the safety of women and girls in England. These include improvements in lighting and CCTV as well as having police officers in plain clothes in clubs and pubs.
Whilst it is very encouraging to see recognition that public spaces are not currently safe and that more needs to be done to tackle public sexual harassment and violence against women and girls, the government do seem to be missing the mark with these suggestions – as many women and campaign leaders have also commented on social media. Better lighting and CCTV could make many people, not only women, feel somewhat safer; it is vital, however, that these are not the only measures to be put in place.
It is important to realise that harassment occurs in busy and well-lit streets; Sarah Everard went missing in London, the third-most monitored city in the world. I am now 20 years old and have experienced public sexual harassment more times than I could recall. I do not feel safe, even in lit streets, even in broad daylight. The problem here is not that streets aren’t well lit enough or that there aren’t witnesses or footage of abuse – people get away with this behaviour in full view of others.
The first time I experienced public sexual harassment I was around 12 years old and in my school uniform. It was the middle of the afternoon, there were lots of people around and no one did anything. Whilst there is a lack of education and effective legal protection against public sexual harassment, we cannot be safe in public spaces.
The Crime Bill is 296 pages long and fails to mention woman and girls a single time. This bill does not protect women, whilst restricting our rights to protest against it.
More streetlights have the same effect as daylight, they are no deterrent to sexual harassment if there is not effective legislation against it. We need specific legislation against PSH, and we need effective legal protection which, in turn, will send a cultural message that this behaviour is not okay. We need longer sentences for violence committed against women and girls.
In this bill, people who damage statues can spend up to 10 years in prison while rapists only spend 5. Unlike women, memorials are mentioned 8 times. It appears that the government care more about statues of dead mean than they do living women and we cannot accept that.
On 3rd March, Sarah Everard went missing. A serving Metropolitan police officer has been charged for her kidnap and murder. The government want to put plain-clothed police officers in pubs and clubs to keep women safe. There is nothing that could make women feel less safe and less heard at this point.
But there is still more we can do…
- Email your MP using Plan International UK’s template and ask for their support in making PSH a crime.
- Fill in the government survey about how they should tackle violence against women and girls.
- Email your ex-school and ask them to educate their students on PSH, using the template from Our Streets Now.
- Sign the petitions to make PSH a criminal offence in the UK, with Plan UK and Our Streets Now: and the original Our Streets Now petition (now with over 400,000 signatures).
- Follow @ourstreetsnow and the campaign at Nottingham @ourstreetsnow_uon
Finally, speak up! Be an active bystander – seemingly harmless sexist jokes and bigotry lead to the culture behind public sexual harassment.