It is unacceptable that many women and girls adapt their daily lives in order to avoid being harassed on the street, public transport, and in other public places from the park to the supermarket. This could include taking longer routes to work, having self imposed curfews, or avoiding certain means of transport.
The excellent work of individuals, campaigns and groups like Everyday Sexism and Stop Street Harassment have highlighted just how prevalent street harassment is and the extent to which many women feel uncomfortable, anxious, and unsafe just going about their daily routines.
If elected Labour Leader I would work with women and women’s organisations to take steps to raise awareness and tackle it. As a start I am putting forward the following proposals:
Call regional summits of local authorities, universities, transport authorities, police, women’s organisations and campaigns to stop street harassment to discuss practical steps that will tackle this.
Encourage local authorities to appoint cabinet positions for women’s safety.
Create a ministerial role for women’s safety.
Sexual assault and harassment - such as being followed, groped, and public exposure is under reported. Many women feel intimidated, violated, too upset and worried that they will not be taken seriously by the police. I would look into setting up a hotline, which is run by police but dedicated to reporting harassment and assault.
This would be staffed 24/7 by women, and to which women could text or call to report with the confidence that they will not be dismissed. If a home visit is needed for a statement, this should also be done by women.
Run an advertising campaign on public transport, billboards, TV and cinemas aimed at combating street sexism, and raise awareness of the effects of street harassment.
Consultation on public transport
Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women only carriages. My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop to on the mode of transport itself. However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome - and also if piloting this at times and modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.
Legislate for tougher rules on what licence holders need to do in case of assault on their premises. Include reporting assault and how to respond to assault in the procedure to get a licence.
Tackle drive-by harassment
Encourage the roll-out to other areas of the successful Bradford scheme to tackle the harassment of women, and encourage police to use public order laws and legislation protecting people from harassment to target suspects.