‘Fear is a part of daily life for women’

By Joe Leogue

Harassment and fear “are part of daily life” for young women in Ireland, according to a children’s rights charity’s survey, published today to coincide with International Day of the Girl.

Plan International Ireland say the findings of the ‘Safe in Ireland’ survey show that our towns and cities should be made safer for women.

The survey, of 534 respondents, three-quarters of whom were aged under 25, found:

  • 93% of women feel more vulnerable because of their gender;
  • 49% of women say they have been verbally abused in public;
  • 58% of women often, or sometimes, feel unsafe taking the bus;
  • More than a third of women say they have been subjected to physical harassment in public, and that this happens most frequently in bars (36%), followed by public streets (22%);
  • Almost three-quarters say they jog or walk faster at night as a safety precaution. Nearly half (47%) say they take a different route or will even walk longer distances in order to feel safer;
  • 83% of the respondents were women.

The survey followed a global study by Plan International, which cited sexual harassment as the biggest city danger facing young women.

That study surveyed 400 experts in children’s and women’s rights and urban safety across the world.

Almost 70% of the Dublin-based experts surveyed as part of the ‘Global Safer Cities for Girls’ study said sexual harassment of young women in the city’s public spaces was a regular occurrence.

Nearly 25% said sexual assault or rape was a safety concern for young women in Dublin’s public spaces. Paul O’Brien, CEO of Plan International Ireland, said the findings show that young women in Ireland “are faced with significant barriers as they strive to achieve their full potential, barriers which men don’t seem to have to factor-in to everyday life”.

“It’s a stark reality for women in our country, especially young women, that harassment and fear are part of daily life,” said Mr O’Brien.

“On International Day of the Girl, we are saying it’s vital that young women are consulted by their local politicians and councils and are brought into the decision-making process around areas that will directly impact on their safety in public.

“Girls and young women have a basic human right to be safe in their home cities.

“Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many around the world, with common safety threats and challenges experienced on a wide scale.”

The ‘Safe in Ireland’ survey was conducted online last month and was made open to the public via social media.

Some 83% of respondents were women, 16% were men, and 1% preferred not to say. Just over three-quarters were aged under 25.

The majority of respondents, 42%, were from Co Dublin; 24% were from Connaught; 19% from Leinster; 12% from Munster, and 3% from Ulster.

The ‘Global Safer Cities for Girls’ Survey was designed by Plan International, in collaboration with research consultants Bloem Consulting, and was carried out between May and August, 2018.

Experts surveyed included NGO representatives, government workers, healthcare and social workers, as well as activists, social commentators, and experts working for corporates or foundations.

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