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Calls for improved responses to street harassment following study

Calls for improved responses to street harassment following study

A major study has revealed incidents of street harassment are often not acted upon or taken seriously when reported to authorities.

Calls for improved responses to street harassment following study

The study found fewer than one in 10 incidents of sexual harassment on the streets are even reported to authorities to begin with.

Girls’ equality charity Plan International Australia, in partnership with Monash University, carried out the research in five cities – Sydney, Madrid, Lima, Kampala and Delhi.

The study used crowd-mapping technology to allow girls and women in five major cities to anonymously record incidents of street harassment, from cat-calling to stalking, threatening behaviour and physical and sexual assault.

In 2018, young women and girls dropped 14,500 pins on city maps denoting specific incidents or ‘bad places’ in Sydney, Madrid, Lima, Kampala and Delhi.

The resulting Reporting to Authorities report shows that of those incidents, 1,270 were reported to authorities, but 852 (67 per cent) of reports were not acted upon.

Across the five cities, young women noted that most responses from authorities were trivialised, with responses ranging from belittling, disbelief and dismissal, to further harassment from authorities themselves and a complete lack of justice, resulting in frustration and a lack of trust in the system.

When it came to incidents that were sexual in nature, the response rate from authorities in Delhi was the lowest of all cities (2 per cent of reports of sexual harassment were acted upon), followed by Lima (16 per cent), Kampala (18 per cent) and Madrid (32 per cent). 

While Sydney fared the best out of the five locations with one in three (34 per cent) of sexual harassment incidents reported to authorities resulting in some kind of action, Plan International Australia has proposed a number of measures to improve reporting outcomes for girls and young women.

“Authorities need to pay attention to what’s happening here,” Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said. “It takes a lot of courage to report harassment, but it’s clear that even when girls do report, they are not taken seriously or the system isn’t set up to support them. Too many of these reports just fall into the cracks.”

Among the actions Plan International Australia is calling for are investment in gender-sensitive training for authorities on how to respond to street harassment, clear and simple reporting systems with the option for anonymity, the establishment of a sexual harassment reporting hotline or app, and public awareness campaigns.

The charity is also pushing for governments to review legislation to ensure perpetrators of street harassment are held accountable.

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