The UK Government has backed a Bill that would criminalise sexual harassment in the street – such as catcalling or following someone – by up to two years in prison.
The Protection From Sex-Based Harassment in Public Bill plans to explicitly criminalise the action of intentionally harassing, alarming or distressing a person in public because of their sex.
Public sexual harassment is already illegal in the UK and is punishable by up to six months in prison. However, this proposed standalone offence will increase the maximum sentence to two years.
The Government says it intends to make the legal ramifications more explicit and encourage more women to report their experiences to the police.
The Opposition has said it will support the Bill. It is currently in the Committee stage (where a detailed examination of the Bill takes place).
The new Bill is considered a response to the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who was abducted, raped, and killed by a Metropolitan police officer while walking home last year.
Her murder caused mass protests over gendered violence and harassment.
In 2021, a United Nations survey found that 71% of women in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space. When broken down by age, this percentage was highest for 18-24-year-olds (86%).