97% of young women in UK have been sexually harassed, survey finds

The survey has sparked outrage on social media across the UK. Erika Armanino reports.

Erika Armanino
12th March 2021
Feature Image: Tim Dennell via Flickr
Nearly all young women in the UK have been sexually harassed in a recent survey conducted by UN Women, provoking a ‘human rights crisis’.

Among women aged 18 to 24, 97% said they had been sexually harassed and have modified their behaviour to avoid being attacked, while 80% of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.

The shocking datas expose a damning lack of faith in the UK authorities’ desire and ability to deal with sexual harassment - 96% of women did not report it to the police and 45% say they don't believe reporting it would have changed anything. 

This is a human rights crisis

Claire Barnett, Executive Director of UN Women UK

As part of the UN Women UK’s Safe Spaces Now project, the organisation collected stories from 400 women and sent an open letter to readers, asking for safer public spaces and improved reporting systems.

Claire Barnett, Executive Director of UN Women UK, said: “This is a human rights crisis. It’s just not enough for us to keep saying ‘this is too difficult a problem for us to solve’ - it needs addressing now”.

This figure produced by the survey doesn’t come as a surprise to many women living in the UK. For half of the population, street harassment is an unfortunate but frequent part of their lives.

At the root of all this is the normalisation of the idea that a woman's body in a public place is simply public property

Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project

The idea that sexual harassment on the street is not talked about enough is explained by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project: “If you talk about wolf-whistling or street harassment in the UK, you are liable to find yourself on the front page of a tabloid being called a ‘feminazi’ and accused of overreacting, so of course young women don’t think that they’ll be taken seriously if they come forward”.

“At the root of all this is the normalisation of the idea that a woman’s body in a public place is simply public property and young women just have to put up with it. We have to shatter that normalisation through policy and in the press if we want to change the picture,” she added. 

If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please contact

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