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Two-thirds of British women sexually harassed in public places: Survey

Reuters , Tuesday 8 Mar 2016

Two-thirds of British women have been sexually harassed in public places and more than one-third have experienced unwanted sexual touching, according to an online survey released on Tuesday, International Women's Day.

For women aged 18 to 25 the abuse is even more common, 85 percent reporting unwanted sexual attention and almost half undergoing unwanted sexual touching, the survey by the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) said.

"Sexual harassment is an everyday experience which women and girls learn to deal with, but it's time to hold a mirror up to it and challenge it," EVAW acting director Sarah Green said in a statement.

"Women should be free to live their lives without the threat of harassment and violence, not having to plan and limit their choices to make sure they're safe."

Two-thirds of the 1,600 women surveyed by EVAW last month said they felt unsafe in public places and almost half used "safety planning" such as avoiding public transport and paying for taxis, leaving early and taking a different route when going out in the evening.

The majority of women said they would have liked someone to intervene when they experienced unwanted sexual touching in a public space, but just 1 in 10 victims said someone else had intervened when it happened.

As prevention measures, women said they would like to see more police, better street lighting, more transport staff and awareness campaigns encouraging other people to intervene.

More than one-quarter of women who experienced unwanted sexual attention and touching were less than 16 years old when they first experienced it and more than three quarters were under 21, the survey said.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll in 2014 ranking transport systems in 16 major world cities, based on how dangerous they were for women, placed London 13th, its safety bettered only by the New York and Tokyo transport networks.

The British government published an updated Violence against Women and Girls Strategy on Tuesday, aimed at tackling sexual harassment "in all its forms" by 2020.

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