Wolf-whistlers may have to refrain from voicing their approval, after a campaign to curb ‘street harassment’ was launched in Hackney this week.
Targeting behaviour that “intimidates women on the streets,” Hackney resident Vicky Simister started the London Anti Street Harassment (LASH) Campaign.
After moving to Hackney over a year ago, Ms Simister, 25, who works in finance, found that she was on the receiving end of street harassment on an almost daily basis.
“Pretty much every day I’ve been tailed by cars or had comments made about me, and I’ve even been assaulted a couple of times,” she said.
“I spoke to friends who live nearby, or people who came to visit me and it seemed like a common occurrence.”
Ms Simister is concerned that street harassment – including physical contact, making derogatory comments or even wolf-whistling – is not taken seriously enough in our society.
“It really got to me that most women think it’s just a fact of life,” she said. She spoke to Hackney Police about the issue, but received a mixed response. “A lot of people think it’s acceptable.”
“Women are told to accept harassment as a fact of life, or to ignore it.”
The LASH campaign seeks to reduce street harassment by empowering women and educating the perpetrators.
Ms Simister said: “The purpose of the campaign is to generate interest from women. It’s about getting women to say: ‘I don’t really want to live with this.’”
She wants women to feel comfortable enough to stick up for each other if they witness street harassment, but also advocates an education-based approach. “People need to learn at a young age that this is not acceptable behaviour,” she said.
The campaign has already attracted support from the local Liberal Democrat party. In response to the campaign Keith Angus, Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Hackney North, wrote: “Street harassment is unacceptable – whether it’s a sly comment or something more sinister.”
Not everyone thinks the campaign is a great idea. A builder on Hackney Road, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “What a ridiculous idea. What will they ban next? Honestly, some people need to lighten up.”
Ms Simister is now keen to launch a viral campaign, including a Youtube video and possibly a poster campaign.