Britain may outlaw catcalling

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Pestering women on the street and in bars could soon become an offense as part of an overhaul of laws to protect women against violence.

Loopholes in current laws mean there is no specific offense for sexually harassing women verbally in the street.

Now a Government-commissioned review will next week call for public sexual harassment and inciting hatred against women to be made criminal offences, reports The Telegraph.

The proposed change is part of a push to outlaw “public sexual harassment”.

However, calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime will be rejected — as it’s thought it be ineffective, according to sources.

A Whitehall source told the paper: “The Law Commission is not going to class misogyny as a hate crime because it would be ineffective and in some cases counterproductive.

“But it will call for a public sexual harassment offence which doesn’t currently exist.

“It thinks this fits with other work the Government is doing on criminalizing intimate image abuse and will be more productive and better in protecting women.”

Laws surrounding the safety of women have been thrown into the spotlight after the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard.

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard was kidnapped and murdered by Metropolitan Police Officer Wayne Couzens.

She was kidnapped while walking home in Clapham, South West London, by  Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens.

In the wake of her death, thousands of women came forward to share their own experiences with sexual violence, harassment and general feelings of being unsafe.

And just months later a teacher was murdered by a stranger in a park just five minutes from her home.

Sabina Nessa, 28, was discovered hidden under a pile of leaves by a dog walker in Cator Park in Kidbrooke, South East London, in September.

‘HARASSMENT, DISTRESS OR ALARM’

Currently, the Public Order Act 1986 does not mention sexual harassment and doesn’t refer to crimes with any sexual element.

The Protection from Harassment Act of 1997 requires a “course of conduct” that does not cover the vast majority of street comments or abuse which are one-off and opportunistic.

And the Sexual Offenses Act of 2003 largely requires physical contact.

But now draft legislation shows the new plan will cover a range of offences – including intentionally pressing against someone on public transport, persistent sexual propositioning, making sexually explicit comments and cat-calling.

Prosecutors and police would have to show that the actions caused “harassment, distress or alarm” with an intent to “humiliate or degrade” an alleged victim.

Sabina Nessa
Sabina Nessa’s body was discovered under a pile of leaves in a park close to her home.

Dr Charlotte Proudman, a lawyer who helped draft the proposed bill, said: “It could be someone shouting degrading, humiliating comments with lewd language to a woman walking down the street that makes them feel unsafe.

“If someone came up to you in a pub, didn’t leave you alone, made foul comments about your body, and was persistently following you around, maybe that would be captured.”

Earlier this year a survey by UN Women UK revealed the shocking statistics that 97 per cent of women aged between 18 and 24 have been the victims of sexual harassment.

This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission. 

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