MPs to probe public sex harassment that has become 'routine' for women and girls

MPs are launching an inquiry into sexual harassment in public places to put a spotlight on a "routine" problem affecting women and girls.

Following the emergence of widespread allegations in the UK and US about sexual assault and harassment across politics and showbiz, a probe by the Women and Equalities Committee will focus on sexual harassment in places such as the street, on public transport, in shopping areas, bars and clubs.

The committee said it wants to understand what effect sexual harassment in public places has on women and girls and how to prevent it.

Committee chair Maria Miller said: "We know that sexual harassment can be experienced by anyone, but the evidence shows that it is overwhelmingly a problem that is perpetrated by men and boys against women and girls and forms part of the wider inequalities that women and girls experience - which is why we are focusing on this.

"Women and girls are harassed on buses, trains, in the street and in bars and clubs.

"We are putting a spotlight on a problem that seems to be so routine in women's lives, and yet has received very little attention in public policy."

A YouGov survey published last year revealed that 85% of women aged 18-24 had experienced unwanted sexual attention in public places and 45% have experienced unwanted sexual touching.

Reported sexual offences on trains have more than doubled in the past five years, with 1,448 offences reported in 2016-17 - up from 650 in 2012-2013.

The new inquiry comes after the Government last month advised schools not to dismiss sexual violence or harassment between children as "banter" or "boys being boys".

The Department for Education's document said it was important that schools and colleges consider sexual harassment in "broad terms", adding that sexual harassment "creates an atmosphere that, if not challenged, can normalise inappropriate behaviours and provide an environment that may lead to sexual violence".

The committee is asking for written submissions online until March 5 and Twitter users can follow the inquiry using #StreetHarassment.

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