Cat-calling, stalking, groping and worse – it doesn’t matter where they live, girls face harassment and abuse on a daily basis all around the world, simply because of their gender.
The magnitude of this global issue is the basis of recent research by Plan International where over 21,000 girls across Delhi, Kampala, Lima, Madrid and Sydney reported the areas in their city where they feel safe and unsafe, using our digital mapping tool developed in partnership with Monash University.
Now, we’re launching the findings in our Unsafe in the City report, which reveals startling levels of street harassment and an overwhelming feeling from girls that they are powerless to change it.
By dropping a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ pin on locations in their city, the tool gave girls the chance to share experiences in which they’d felt threatened or in danger.
One 23 year old woman in Lima reported an incident from her teenage years: “I was sitting on the lawn. A man passing told me that there was a guy behind me. When I turned around, a man had his penis out. He was masturbating, looking at me, sitting on a bench in plain sight and ignored by all. Nobody did anything. I was underage, I did not say anything, I just retired to cry alone. It was horrible!”
Another, a 21 year old woman from Madrid, shared her thoughts on the importance of our report: “For us there isn’t anything new [in this research]. The most important finding isn’t for us but for the world that you can see how insecure we feel. They harass us, they touch us, they do everything to us. There is finally somewhere where it is written down.”
The report highlights authorities and law enforcement’s tendency to trivialise or ignore reports of street harassment, a habit that condones such behaviour, forcing women to change their actions rather than the men who perpetrate.
The report found:
- In Uganda, 22% of women aged 15-49 have experienced some form of sexual violence. Every year more than one million women, across the country, are exposed to sexual violence.
- Across the five cities the number of pins dropped was 21,200, and the “bad” pins, places where girls and young women felt unsafe or uncomfortable, greatly outnumbered the “good”. Similarly, out of the 9,292 comments left, the negative ones outweighed the positive ones.
- 339 of the incidents that were given ‘bad pins’ in Kampala were reported to authorities but no action was taken in 84% of the cases.
- 176 of the incidents that were given ‘bad pins’ in Lima were reported to authorities but no action was taken in 82% of the cases.
- In 2017, more than 1200 cases of violence were reported in Lima, and 70% of the victims were girls under 18 years old.
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Unsafe in the city: Sydney
Along with our global report, we have also launched a second more localised report, Unsafe in the City: Sydney. Like their peers in Madrid, Delhi, Kampala and Lima, girls in Sydney reported that sexual harassment was prevalent in the city.
The report found:
- Over two-thirds (72%) of the incident reports collected via the website included sexual harassment of some kind. 14% recorded sexual assaults
- 90%of young women in Sydney don’t feel safe after dark.
- Of those who have experienced street harassment, more than a third were first harassed between the ages of 11 and 15.
- At least 20 young women stopped studying or quit their job because of a perceived threat. A third of these incidents were apparently reported to the authorities, but further action was only taken in one instance.
- Nearly half of those recording bad incidents now avoid that area if they are alone and 12% have never gone back to that location.
- Fewer than one in 10 incidences of harassment and abuse were reported to authorities. In more than two-thirds of these cases, girls and young women reported that the authorities didn’t take action.
- Thirty instances of public masturbation and flashing were recorded – the issue was particularly prominent in parks.
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By amplifying girls’ voices and giving them a platform to call out harassment, we hope this report will provide government and policy makers with a mandate to listen and take action while enabling girls to have a say in the change they want to see. Including girls in decision making, educating men and boys to respect girls as equals and legislative and policy change are key to making cities safer for girls and for everyone. We’ll be working with stakeholders in key cities to drive this change. Sign the pledge to get involved.