“Hey, baby! You’re looking real good in that dress!”
“Why aren’t you talking to me — I said, hello!”
“Smile, woman! You’d look prettier if you did.”
Irrespective of geographic location, race, age, language, sexual orientation and culture, thousands of women and girls experience street harassment. According to the nonprofit organization Stop Street Harassment (SSH), street harassment begins around puberty. While street harassment is most frequent for teenagers and women in their twenties, the chance of it happening never goes away and women in their eighties have shared stories.
Although there is not a formal definition of street harassment, according to SSH, gender-based street harassment is “unwanted comments, gestures and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression or sexual orientation.”
Street harassment is a human rights violation because it limits harassed persons’ ability to be in public – especially women’s – and includes unwanted whistling, leering or sexist, homophobic, racist and transphobic slurs; persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no; as well as sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault and rape.
In 2014, SSH commissioned a 2,000-person nationally representative survey in the United Sates with firm GfK, which found that 65 percent of all women had experienced street harassment. Among all women, 23 percent had been sexually touched, 20 percent had been followed, and 9 percent had been forced to do something sexual. Both in the U.S and globally, street harassment begins in early adolescence. In the U.S. half of people who had been harassed reported that it occurred by age 17, and an informal SSH online study of women globally, almost one in four women reported experiencing street harassment by age 12 and nearly 90 percent by age 19.