Overview: Street harassment is any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing and is motivated by gender. In countries like India and Bangladesh, it’s termed “eve teasing,” and in countries like Egypt, it’s called “public sexual harassment.” Street harassment is a human rights issue because it limits women’s ability to be in public as often or as comfortably as most men. The mobility of all members of the LGBQT community is often restricted as well because of harassment and hateful violence motivated by the person’s actual or perceived gender expression or sexual orientation.
* Christian Science Monitor, “Street harassment of women: It’s a bigger problem than you think”
* The Guardian, “Feeling harassed? Do something about it“
Types: It ranges from leers, whistles, honks, kissing noises, and non-sexually explicit evaluative comments, to more insulting and threatening behavior like vulgar gestures, sexually charged comments, flashing, and stalking, to illegal actions like public masturbation, sexual touching, assault, and murder.
Gender-based street harassment can intersect with racism, homophobia and transphobia, classism, and/or ableism (as explored in Chapter 3 of the Stop Street Harassment book) to create multi-layered harassment.
Age: Street harassment often begins around puberty. In a 2008 study of 811 women conducted by Stop Street Harassment, almost 1 in 4 women had experienced street harassment by age 12 (7th grade) and nearly 90% by age 19. While street harassment is most frequent for teenagers and women in their 20s, the chance of it happening never goes away and women in their 80s have shared stories.
Is street harassment starting at puberty and ending only at death what we want for the next generation of girls?
Note: While women also may harass men in public, gender inequality means that the power dynamics at play, frequency of the harassment, and the underlying threat of rape is rarely comparable. For these reasons, the work of Stop Street Harassment focuses mostly on men harassing women (cis and transwomen) or people perceived to be female.
Also, while public harassment motivated by racism, homophobia, transphobia, or classism—types of deplorable harassment which men can be the target of and sometimes women perpetrate—is recognized as socially unacceptable behavior, men’s harassment of women motivated by gender and sexism is not. Instead it is portrayed as complimentary, a joke, or “only” a trivial annoyance. Plus people tend to blame women for its occurrence based on what they are wearing or what time of day they are in public. These are additional reasons why Stop Street Harassment focuses on this type of harassment – but is an ally to all groups and people working to end every type of harassment.