In December 2017 The Women and Equalities Committee held a one-off evidence session on women’s experiences of everyday sexism and sexual harassment. MPs now want to focus on women and girls’ experiences of sexual harassment in public places: on the street; on public transport; in shopping areas; in bars and clubs; and other public areas.

  • A national survey published by YouGov in 2016 revealed that 85% of women aged 18-24 had experienced unwanted sexual touching.
  • Reported sexual offences on trains have more than doubled in the past five years.

The Committee wants to understand why sexual harassment happens in public places, what effect it has on women and girls, and how to prevent it and support victims. The Committee is interested in how age, ethnicity, sexuality and other characteristics affect women’s experiences.

Committee Chair, Maria Miller MP, said

“We know that there is huge public concern about sexual harassment, particularly of women and girls, which is why we held an evidence session in December to look at women’s experiences of harassment in different places and how these experiences are linked.

“We know that sexual harassment can be experienced by anyone, but the evidence shows that it is overwhelmingly a problem that is perpetrated by men and boys against women and girls and forms part of the wider inequalities that women and girls experience – which is why we are focusing on this.

“We are putting a spotlight on a problem that seems to be so routine in women’s lives, and yet has received very little attention in public policy.”

The Committee is inviting written evidence by 5 March 2018 on questions including:

  • How widespread is sexual harassment of women and girls in public places and what form does it take?
  • Who are the perpetrators and victims and how does it happen?
  • What are the factors (including social and cultural) that lead to sexual harassment of women and girls in public places?
  • How do men and boys learn what is acceptable behaviour?
  • How can negative attitudes and behaviours be changed?
  • How should the government tackle sexual harassment in public places?
  • Are more or different laws needed?
  • Is current support adequate for victims of sexual harassment in public places?

Oral evidence sessions are likely to being in the Spring, with the Committee likely to report in the Summer.

It is interesting that a public policy driven inquiry such as this could be the impetus to change such entrenched human behaviours. We will provide an update with the findings and proposed strategies when the report is published later on in the year.