'We're told to smile whilst it happens': Campaigner aims to end street sexual harassment

20 May 2022, 15:23

Co-founder of Our Streets Now Maya Tutton

By Tim Dodd

Co-founder of Our Streets Now Maya Tutton tells LBC women are being "sexually harassed and told to smile while it happens", amid reports that a law banning street harassment is being blocked.

It comes as a Government adviser on preventing violence against women and girls has suggested her demand for street harassment to be criminalised is being blocked.

Former LBC podcast host Nimco Ali, who Priti Patel appointed to advise the Home Office in 2020, wants behaviour including wolf-whistling, catcalling and staring persistently to be made a crime punished with on-the-spot fines.

The Government in July announced a crackdown on sexual harassment, with its strategy developed after a public consultation taking in evidence from 180,000 people, the vast majority during a two-week period following the murder of Sarah Everard.

Ms Ali told the BBC's Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast she had experienced "pushback" over her campaign.

Ms Tutton said the Our Streets Now campaign to end public sexual harassment in the UK started after France introduced a law in 2018 which allowed police to issue "on the spot fines" for incidents of sexual harrassment. 

Ms Tutton told Shelagh Fogarty that "when we speak about violence against women and girls it is really about understanding more and more that these [street] behaviours are profoundly interlinked" with more serious crimes. 

"We as a society need to stand up and say that all forms of violence against women and girls is unacceptable, and we need to tackle these so-called lower level offences in order to challenge that underlying ideology that underpins all forms of violence, whether that's public sexual harassment or femicide," she said.

Read more: Sue Gray 'ready to name and shame key Partygate players' and may publish photos of events

Ms Tutton continued: "Unfortunately, it took me seeing my 11-year-old sister at the time being sexually harassed to finally wake up and say 'no, we can't continue to have this problem'.

"Why is it that we have raised boys to become men who feel entitled to make comments about our bodies?"

In response to Shelagh saying that if women challenge inappropriate behaviour they are told "cheer up love", Ms Tutton said "We're sexually harassed and then we're told we have to smile while it happens".

Read more: 'Boris didn't get away with Partygate': Raab says it's up to Sue Gray to name and shame

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