UK schoolgirls are campaigning for public sexual harassment to be on the curriculum

As millions of students in England and Wales return to school after lockdown, a group of British schoolgirls is campaigning to include public sexual harassment on the curriculum. 

Our Streets Now is a grassroots intersectional campaign demanding street harassment be taught as part of PSHE (Personal, Social, Health, and Economic) or RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) lessons in schools. Founded by sisters Maya and Gemma Tutton in 2019, Our Streets Now’s campaign has been rapidly gathering steam. Their petition to make street harassment a criminal offence in the UK as been signed more than 200,000 times. 

The Tuttons and their team are launching the next step in the Our Streets Now campaign — “Our Schools Now” — alongside a report based on a survey they conducted with more than 150 secondary school students and recent school leavers. 

According to the report, only 14 percent of pupils had been taught about public sexual harassment at school. 72 percent of students who reported public sexual harassment said they’d received a negative response from their school, and the majority of respondents said no tangible action was taken. 47 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t report an incident of public sexual harassment to their school because they were afraid or unsure they’d be taken seriously by staff. 

Maya and Gemma Tutton, founders of Our Streets Now.

In the report, recommendations for educators have been laid out, including in teaching children what constitutes public sexual harassment along with its impact on women, girls, and marginalised groups, in addition to teaching all pupils what to do when they’re bystanders in an incident. Other recommendations include training staff on how to intervene in public sexual harassment and training on how to respond when pupils report incidents along with developing a clear policy for tackling harassment — one that’s distinct from a school bullying policy. 

Public sexual harassment is a widespread issue faced by a large number of schoolgirls in the UK. 66 percent of girls aged 14 to 21 have experienced sexual harassment or unwanted attention in a public place, according to girls rights organisation Plan UK. Additionally, 35 percent of girls wearing a school uniform have been sexually harassed.

UK schoolgirls are campaigning for public sexual harassment to be on the curriculum

“We need to make sure that the next generation of children in the UK understand the prevalence and impact of public sexual harassment,” Maya and Gemma Tutton said in a statement. 

“As children and teenagers go back to school and the Government’s mandatory sex education curriculum is introduced, we are urging schools to include public sexual harassment within their mandatory PSHE/RSE lessons.”

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