Pestering women on the street and in pubs could become a criminal offence
A new draft bill aims to cover a variety of actions, including intentionally pressing against someone on public transport
Pestering women in the street and in pubs could soon become a criminal offence thanks to an impending overhaul of the laws protecting women from violence and public sexual harassment.
As it stands, a loophole means that there is currently no specific law that brands sexually harassing women in the street as a criminal offence - however all that could soon change thanks to a new government commissioned review which is due to start next week.
According to The Telegraph, this new review will call for inciting hatred against women and and public sexual harassment to be made criminal offences in an attempt to outlaw such behaviour.
However early comments suggest that outlawing this type of misogynistic activity is unlikely to be made official, with decision-makers reported to believe that the move would be "ineffective."
“The Law Commission is not going to class misogyny as a hate crime because it would be ineffective and in some cases counterproductive," a Whitehall representative told the outlet.
“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 criminalising intimate image abuse and will be more productive and better in protecting women.”
Talk of forging better protection for women hit the headlines earlier this year, when 33-year-old Sarah Everard was abducted and ultimately raped and killed by former Met police officer Wayne Couzens as she walked home from a friends house in March.
Discussions were intensified when the murdered body of 28-year-old Sabina Nessa was discovered in South East London just a few months later in September.
As it stands, current legislation falls frustratingly short of making many offences criminal. The Protection from Harassment Act of 1997 doesn't cover off-the-cuff comments made on the street by passers by; the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 requires physical contact to be made, and the Public Order Act 1986 doesn't mention sexual harassment or make reference to crimes with a sexual element.
That said, the new draft legislation details a revised plan that will cover a variety of different offences including intentionally pressing against a person on public transport, cat-calling and making sexually explicit comments and persistent sexual propositioning.
Police and prosecutors would be required to prove that these actions caused harassment, distress or alarm with the intention of making the alleged victim feel humiliated or degraded.
“It could be someone shouting degrading, humiliating comments with lewd language to a woman walking down the street that makes them feel unsafe," explained barrister Dr Charlotte Proudman who helped draft the proposed bill.
“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.”
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