Violence against women an ‘epidemic’

Violence against women in public places has become a ‘global epidemic’, according to the ActionAid charity.

The poll was commissioned for the charity’s International Safe Cities for Women Day, which is today.

Three quarters of women in the UK have experienced violence or harassment in cities, says the research.

The poll of 2,518 women found that 75% of them had been subject to violence in urban areas; 23% had been groped in public, and a third (36%) felt at risk on public transport. Three in seven (43%) said they felt at risk of harassment on city streets.

The proportion of women in other parts of the world who had experienced urban violence was higher. In Thailand and Brazil, 86% of women said they had been subjected to harassment or violence in public.

Sarah Carson, ActionAid’s women’s rights campaign manager, said the research was worrying.

“Every day, women around the world face groping, unwanted touching, and many other forms of harassment on the streets of their cities.

“But behind every statistic are real women. Women who have been raped in their homes in the slums of Delhi, women in Brazil who fear the drug traffickers who dominate and control their neighbourhoods, and garment workers in Cambodia and Thailand who are abused and harassed in and around their workplace.

“It is appalling, and unacceptable, that this is happening in cities around the world.”

The charity is campaigning for the Government to increase the proportion of aid to women’s groups working on the frontline in poor communities.

ActionAid are asking for £70m, over the next three years, to be committed to the existing aid budget, so that “no matter who she is, or where she lives, no woman has to live in fear of violence or harassment in her city”.

Broadchurch star, Jodie Whittaker, spoke of her own experience of harassment, as she joined fellow actress, Imelda Staunton, in launching a campaign to improve women’s safety in cities.

Whittaker, 33, said her experiences had made her think about the types of inappropriate behaviour women accept, and when they should report it.

She was speaking at the launch of ActionAid’s International Safe Cities for Women Day, at Marble Arch.

Thirty mannequins — a third marked in red — were installed at the London landmark by the charity, to represent the one-in-three women who experience violence and are subject to it on the streets of their cities.

Asked whether she had felt unsafe on the streets, Whittaker replied: “There’s been five or six incidents that, over my life — and I’m only 33 — I’ve experienced, and, actually, it made me question how far does something have to go before you report it. And that’s the terrifying thing, I think, for women ... What do we accept?

“Do we accept someone grabbing you inappropriately on the Tube? Do we accept being leered at, and all those things? And how far does it have to go before you report it?”

Staunton, 60, said women were plagued by concerns that someone might be following them when they are alone in cities.

“That, surely, isn’t a way any human being should be walking home, or walking to school, or walking back from work”, she said.

“So, I think it’s important for all of us to bring this to the surface and that women who sometimes don’t have a voice be able to voice their concerns.”

She added: “It’s not just about women. It’s about men being made aware. There might be some men who aren’t aware that women don’t feel safe, but they should be made aware of that.

“Of course, there are some men who don’t feel safe, but, today, we are talking about women and when you talk about women, you have to include men.”

ActionAid’s International Safe Cities for Women Day will be marked by events across the world today.


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