A former cabinet minister hopes a law change to protect women on Britain’s streets will make it “crystal clear” that perpetrators cannot abuse women and girls.
Former Business Secretary Greg Clark told how there is no specific criminal offence that makes it illegal to deliberately harass a woman in public even when it is clearly intended to cause alarm or humiliation.
Mr Clark put forward the Protection from Sex-based Harassment in Public Bill to stop a loophole that continues to leave women feeling unsafe walking alone at night.
The Bill returns to the Lords today (Fri) for its second reading.
Mr Clark said: “Today is an important day for millions of women in this country. The House of Lords will decide whether to pass a new law that will make harassing a woman in the street because of their sex an offence.”
“The everyday experience of so many women and girls is that they fear being harassed when alone on the street.
“Being followed, having lewd comments made to them, being pestered by strangers – these are all very familiar to women, but not experienced by most men. It means that women change the way they use the streets – like not walking alone after dark, or keeping their keys in their hand for self-defence.”
It is illegal to sexually harass someone at work but there is no specific criminal offence that makes it unlawful to deliberately harass a woman in public even when it is the perpetrator’s clear intention to cause humiliation.
The Commons passed Mr Clark’s Private Member’s Bill to close this loophole and make it clear that it is illegal to harass someone in a public place on the grounds of their sex.
Mr Clark said: “If the Bill passes, I hope it will change the culture, rather than need many arrests.”
“It will be crystal clear that women cannot be abused in public deliberately to frighten or humiliate them.”
“The tiny minority of men who do this will have cause to think twice before harassing a woman.”
“The police will know that they should take seriously women being followed or harassed. And more women will have the confidence to report such incidents, knowing that they will not be dismissed.”
“And through all this, women will feel safer on our streets.”
The Daily Express has launched a campaign called Protect Women’s Rights to secure the safety of women and girls, both online and off.
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