Today Jeremy Corbyn issued his policy on combating street harassment. We are two of the women that were involved in suggesting the seven proposals outlined in this document. This issue is important to us because we, like the majority of women, face harassment and occasionally assault going about our daily lives.
Apart from the street harassment we experience on a day to day level, this year alone we have been on empty Tube carriages while a man has masturbated, been followed home, felt the need to abort journeys on public transport, and felt wary to report assault to the police.
We are fed up with this and it needs to be addressed fast. That is why we asked Jeremy if we could talk to other women and suggest proposals to tackle this infringement of our freedoms and massive source of anxieties in everyday life. Nearly 90% of women have experienced sexual harassment by the age of 19, and 1 in 3 have experienced it in their place of work or study - yet 85% of victims never report it to the police. Being leered at in the street or touched up on the train are considered such a 'normal' daily occurrence that they aren't being spoken of, let alone reported.
The proposals that Jeremy has put forward, which are written by women, attempt to tackle the heart of the harassment and assault that women face. They aim to stop street harassment and assault in its tracks and to change the culture.
This is one of the many reasons why we are supporting Jeremy: when we asked him to consult on ideas on street harassment, he listened - he does not choose to hide from the issue but instead to address it head on. He is open to ideas, knows that he (and we) do not have all the answers and wants to engage with the very people who live with this.
Other proposals in the document include: working together with local authorities, universities, transport authorities, women's organisations and campaigns to seriously work out how to tackle sexism on our streets. Launching a massive campaign on public transport, billboards, TV and cinema advertising aimed at combating street sexism. A police hotline staffed by women in order to give women confidence to report assault and harassment with a guarantee of a woman making a home visit to take a statement (if needed). Tougher licensing laws and steps to tackle drive-by harassment. Underlying all of this is the knowledge that we must tackle harassment by changing men's behaviour, not blaming or penalising women. This is why there are proposals about better holding men to account, for ensuring women can report incidents without fear of being dismissed, and for properly equipping public officials to prevent harassment. The document is worth reading in full and is here.
Street harassment has to be tackled if women are to be safe and feel safe in public - passionate statements condemning sexism without any concrete suggestions for change are not doing the trick. Finally we are having a national debate about practical policies to change men's attitudes and behaviour and improve women's lives.
One of the proposals is a consultation on public transport, including consulting on a pilot of a women's only carriage late at night in harassment hotspots. This has grabbed the headlines. We proposed this because, while working on putting together these ideas, some women felt that they would like a safer space if they are being harassed on public transport. Others thought it would be counter-productive and needed a different solution. Hence, a consultation.
One thing we must all agree on is that we cannot continue to let harassment and assault on public transport continue to rise. It has risen by over 25% in a year. We need to address women's safety right now, while also making strong moves to to tackle the culture of our society in the long term.
We wanted to get ideas out there on how to tackle street harassment. Let's engage in a serious discussion to do this together.