Tougher measures to protect women include making street harassment a specific crime

21 July 2021, 08:04 | Updated: 21 July 2021, 22:23

The strategy will protect women and girls on the streets.
The strategy will protect women and girls on the streets. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Strengthened plans to protect women and girls on the streets have been announced including proposals to make street harassment like wolf whistling a specific criminal offence.

Home Secretary Priti Patel published the plans on Wednesday, which also include the creation of a national policing lead and phone helpline to support victims.

The plans also include:

  • A 24-hour rape and sexual assault helpline
  • £5m to tackle violence in public places at night
  • An online tool where women and girls can report areas where they have felt unsafe

Over 180,000 people contributed to shaping the strategy to help tackle violence against women and girls.

The strategy also includes the creation of a national policing lead to ensure best practice among forces and improve the response times to such crimes.

It will seek to criminalise so-called virginity testing too, described by MPs as a "medieval" practice.

The Ministry of Justice will commission a 24/7 rape and sexual assault helpline as a further step, while the Department for Education will work with the Office for Students to tackle sexual harassment and abuse in higher education.

Additionally, two "Violence Against Women and Girls Transport Champions" will be appointed, which the government has said will "drive forward positive change and tackle the problems faced by female passengers on public transport".

Read more: Ex-police chief: Womens' faith in justice system destroyed amid Everard case

Read more: London's streets are not safe 'for women or for girls', Sadiq Khan tells LBC

Ms Patel said: "The safety of women and girls across the country, wherever they are, is an absolute priority for me.

"It is unacceptable that women and girls are still subject to harassment, abuse, and violence, and I do not accept that violence against women and girls is inevitable.

"I am determined to give the police the powers they need to crack down on perpetrators and carry out their duties to protect the public whilst providing victims with the care and support they deserve.

"This strategy, shaped by the responses of those who bravely came forward and shared their stories and experiences, will deliver real and lasting change."

Read more: Sexual harassment 'normalised' for children in school, says Ofsted report

Shadow home office minister Jess Phillips called for the government to take action sooner rather than later, saying it was running on "warm words".

"The services and support required to end violence against women and girls cannot run on warm words alone," she said.

"How are we in a situation where we have better protections for statues than for women?

"Labour has set out a wealth of proposals to tackle Violence Against Women's and Girls but the Tories are dragging their feet.

"The government should step up to the plate and take action rather than more warm words."

It comes four months after the murder of Sarah Everard, which led to demonstrations about women's safety.