These 7 steps would help stamp out street harassment, according to MPs

Posted by
Moya Crockett

The Women and Equalities Committee is calling on the government to do much, much more to end the harassment of women and girls. 

For a long time, the sexual harassment of women in public was seen as an inevitability; as simply a part of life in the UK. Certainly, men who catcalled, wolf-whistled, groped, hassled or followed women were not perceived as a problem that police or the government could – or should – do anything about. An attitude of ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘women should take it as a compliment’ reverberated right up the societal food chain, making it almost impossible for women to take action against harassers.

But in recent years, attitudes have shifted. Key to that change were the awareness-raising efforts of the Everyday Sexism Project, anti-harassment initiatives such as Hollaback, and the #MeToo movement – as well as research by the End Violence Against Women coalition that revealed that most women in the UK have been sexually harassed in public. Gradually, women (and LGBTQ+ people, who are also frequently made to feel unsafe in public) have realised that we can demand that authorities take street harassment seriously.

Now, the Women and Equalities Committee has added its voice to calls for the government to do more to tackle the harassment of women and girls in the UK. 

After a nine-month inquiry into the issue, the cross-party group of MPs found that street harassment was so widespread and “relentless” that it became “normalised” for girls as they grew up.

The committee’s report said that while the UK government “has a strong reputation for taking seriously the prevention of sexual abuse and violence overseas,” it “is failing to address the problem at home”. 

The government had previously pledged to eliminate the sexual harassment of women and girls by 2030 under its obligations to the UN.

However, the MPs on the Women and Equalities Committee found “no evidence of any programme to achieve this”, adding that the issue of sexual harassment was “almost entirely absent” from the government’s current strategy for tackling violence against women and girls.

According to the committee, there are seven steps the government and other authorities should take to properly tackle street harassment:

  1. Force train and bus operators to take tougher action against sexual harassment and block the viewing of pornography on public transport
  2. Ban all non-consensual sharing of intimate images
  3. Publish a new “Violence Against Women and Girls” strategy
  4. Create a public campaign to change attitudes
  5. Take an evidence-based approach to addressing the harms of pornography, along the lines of road safety or anti-smoking campaigns
  6. Tougher laws to ensure pub landlords take action on sexual harassment – and make local authorities consult women’s groups before licensing strip clubs
  7. Make it a legal obligation for universities to have policies outlawing sexual harassment

Maria Miller, the chair of the Women and Equalities Committee 

A spokesperson for the Home Office said that the government had pledged £100 million in funding to support local services in tackling violence against women and girls, and that it was working on an updated strategy to tackle the issue.

“Whether in the home, the workplace or in public, sexual harassment is unacceptable,” they said, adding that the Home Office would consider the committee’s recommendations before responding fully.

Maria Miller, the chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said that it was “not acceptable that women have to change their behaviour to avoid sexual harassment.

“It has a wider effect on society, contributing to a culture in which sexual violence can be normalised or excused. All of this keeps women and girls unequal.”

She added that other authorities, as well as the government, had a responsibility to address street harassment if public places were to “be made safe for all women and girls”.

“The #MeToo movement shows that we must confront some deeply uncomfortable truths about our society and the attitudes some men hold,” Miller said.

“Laws alone cannot solve the cultural acceptability of sexual harassment. That is why we have set out a series of practical measures that Government, public transport operators, local authorities and universities should implement immediately.”

Let’s hope they listen.

Images: Ozgu Ozden/Nicola Fioravanti/Unsplash, Getty Images 


Share this article


Moya Crockett

Moya is Contributing Women’s Editor at and Deputy Editor of Stylist Loves, Stylist's daily email newsletter. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, politics and psychology. Carrying a bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

Recommended by Moya Crockett

  • Life

    #HarassedAtWork: women share real-life accounts of sexual harassment

    Almost two-thirds of women have been sexually harassed at work, according to a new study

    Posted by
    Kayleigh Dray
  • Life

    “Making misogyny a hate crime won’t be enough to stamp out street harassment”

    If we want fewer women to be harassed on the street, we need to tackle the ignorance at the root of the crime.

    Posted by
    Moya Lothian-McLean
  • People

    Lily Allen on why she needs to talk about being sexually harassed

    “I can’t talk too much for legal reasons, but I’m in the process of dealing with something”

    Posted by
    Kayleigh Dray
  • Long Reads

    How #MeToo has affected our daily lives: Five women share their stories

    Five women recount how a global movement has affected their day-to-day lives.

    Posted by
    Stylist Team
  • Long Reads

    A year of #MeToo: our most powerful essays

    It’s been a year since the allegations against Harvey Weinstein first came to light. A lot has changed

    Posted by
    Sarah Biddlecombe

Other people read

More from Life

More from Moya Crockett