The Telegraph – Survey reveals toll of sexual harassment faced by young women

Anne Gulland, Global health security correspondent

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 30 January 2019. More than two thirds of girls and young women surveyed in four countries around the world have been sexually harassed over the last six months, according to a new study.

A survey of 2 560 young people aged between 14 and 21 in Brazil, Kenya, India and the UK carried out by charity ActionAid shows how sexual harassment is a global phenomenon, blighting the daily lives of young women and girls.

Nearly three quarters of the young people of both sexes surveyed had witnessed negative or offensive attitudes towards women in the last six months. And 65 per cent of girls had been sexually harassed over that period.

Examples highlighted by survey respondents included wolf whistling, catcalling (making comments of a sexual nature), negative comments about girls’ appearance, sexual jokes, sharing explicit photos online, sexting, groping, upskirting – the practice of taking a photograph up a skirt which has recently been outlawed in the UK – and being forced to kiss someone.

Despite the worldwide Me Too and Time’s Up movements which have shone a light on the sexual harassment women face in their daily lives, the survey shows that sexist and misogynistic attitudes are prevalent around the world.

The ActionAid survey found that girls in Kenya were the most likely to face harassment with 74 per cent saying they had been exposed to it in the last six months, compared to 64 per cent in Brazil, 57 per cent in India and 48 per cent in the UK.

More than one in ten (12 per cent) of even the youngest girls interviewed in the UK (aged 14 to 16) said they worried about being sexually harassed every day, the survey found. This number increased to 41 per cent among girls the same age in Brazil.

Almost two thirds of 14-16-year-old girls and boys in the UK said they had witnessed misogynistic behaviour, such as negative comments about women’s appearance or sexual jokes about girls from those around them, including from family members and friends to strangers or teachers.

Sexual harassment was more tolerated in India than in the other countries: 16 per cent of respondents in India said that being forced to kiss someone was acceptable, compared to five per cent in the other countries surveyed.

And 15 per cent of Indian respondents said that upskirting was acceptable compared to six per cent in the other countries.

In Brazil, catcalling and wolf whistling are common with around 40 per cent of respondents being subject to one or other in the last six months.

Young people predominantly believe that education is the answer.

Overall 80 per cent support education as the way to tackle harassment of girls/women, backing educating boys in schools about how to treat girls (60 per cent), educating girls in school about how to report harassment (58 per cent), educating teachers about taking accusations seriously (45 per cent) and educating parents (41 per cent).

Girish Menon, ActionAid chief executive, said: “This research shines a worrying spotlight on how many young people witness or experience sexual discrimination and harassment.

“We know from experience that misogyny is not trivial. It happens because of deep-rooted beliefs that see women and girls as worth less, that their bodies exist to exploit, and control.”

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