Street harassment is a global phenomenon. Whilst many don’t see the problem with telling a woman to smile or paying her a compliment in the form of a cat-call, research has found that women report feeling annoyed, angry, disgusted, nervous, and scared when they’re the subject of catcalls, as they’re often concerned the situation will escalate into something more threatening.
Street harassment is defined as 'a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, wolf-whistlings, "catcalling", and other actions by strangers in public areas.'
99% of women have experienced street harassment at some point in their lives, and 85% of women having taken action like walking a different route home to avoid it.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, women and girls have to walk together in groups on the street at 5am to collect water, in order to not be assaulted on the way. The need for gender-safe cities has been a call to action for activists for quite some time now, with the United Nations Safe City Global Initiative set to expand into more than 30 cities by 2017.
A 2013 study of 93,000 LGBQT individuals in the European Union found that half avoided public spaces sometimes because of street harassment and most reported high levels of fear in locations like restaurants, public transportation, streets, parking lots, and parks.
For International Anti-Harassment week, organisations campaigning for ending harassment in public spaces such as Hollaback, Stop Street Harassment and Meet us on the Street have launched a Twitter campaign under the #endSH hashtag, as well as campaigns in over 30 countries involving rallies, marches, workshops and public art.
This April 15th is the turn of the Stop Telling Women to Smile International Wheat Pasting night, which will see people all over the world pasting posters of the work of anti-street harassment activist and artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh in public spaces around their cities, in order to raise awareness of street harassment, and provide support to those affected by it.
To learn more about street harassment, watch the Hollaback video below:
Photo credits: Stop Telling Women To Smile/Tatyana Fazlalizadeh