Programme of work needed to tackle sexual harassment in public places

08 May 2019

Sexual harassment will be addressed within the cross-Government Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy, says the Government’s Response to the Committee’s report on sexual harassment of women and girls in public places.

Government responds positively to recommendations

Committee Chair Maria Miller said:

“We heard from a large number of women, from the police and other agencies as well as researchers, who told us that sexual harassment in public places pervades the lives of women and girls, whether it is cat-calling in the street, upskirting on public transport, misogynistic abuse online or sexual assault in pubs and clubs or at university.

Yet, it is so everyday and routine that it is often invisible to those who don’t experience it.

I am therefore delighted that the Government has accepted our key recommendation that this should be robustly tackled through its cross-government violence against women and girls strategy.

The Committee made a series of practical recommendations on issues such as data collection, women’s safety on public transport, and media regulation.

We are pleased that the Government has responded positively to many of these.

However, this is just the start of the journey and Government departments, public bodies and local authorities now need to sit down with women’s groups and other experts and develop a comprehensive programme of work to make public places safe for all women and girls

The Committee also welcomes the Government’s recognition of racialised sexual harassment of black and ethnic minority women and girls, and of the ways in which sexual harassment intersects with other inequalities.

However, the Committee is concerned that the Government does not yet have a comprehensive programme of work in place for preventing and addressing the problem; the Committee’s view is that in practice the policy shift has not yet fully translated to the actions needed to tackle this comprehensively.”


The Committee’s key findings are summarised below.
In its response the Government fully accepts recommendations on:

  • data collection
  • schools taking action in advance of statutory guidance coming into force in 2020
  • research on underlying factors contributing to sexual harassment
  • a review of hate crime, online spaces as a site for sexual harassment and the need for a gendered approach to online harm.

The Government accepts in principle or partially accepts the Committee’s recommendations on:

  • the Ending VAWG strategy
  • research on pornography
  • the need for long term evaluated campaigns
  • BBFC guidelines
  • requiring public transport operators to have sexual harassment policies
  • action to prohibit pornography displayed on public transport
  • action to tackle sexual harassment to be embedded in alcohol strategy and the modern
  • crime strategy
  • action by local authorities.

The Government does not accept the Committee’s recommendations for:

  • a law on image based sexual abuse
  • social media to be included in the age verification of pornographic websites provision
  • evaluation of the Purple Flag scheme
  • amendment to the Licensing Act
  • action on sexual entertainment venues
  • requiring universities to take action on student safety.

Further information

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