Women Are Still Being Harassed In The Streets During Lockdown

Photographed by Eylul Aslan
"With everything going on, men are still deciding to waste their energy on making women feel small in public?"
When we're only allowed to leave our house for a limited time each day, going outside for a breath of fresh air, run or stroll becomes golden hour. It's our time to unwind, increase our heart rate and a chance for us to pick up some groceries at our local supermarket. Yet those 60 minutes of peace turn sour because some people don't know how to respect others – a fact that does not seem to have changed during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Eve, 25, from Edinburgh, says she was harassed by two young men while on her daily walk. "I was waiting to cross the road when a car slowed down to obviously ogle me. They beeped the horn and one literally hung out the window to shout something I couldn't understand," she says. "It made me feel quite startled. I'd almost forgotten what being catcalled felt like because of isolation."

With everything going on, men are still deciding to waste their energy on making women feel small in public?

Eve, 25, edinburgh
"I felt like my quiet time away from the confines of my house had been encroached upon. I'd walked outside to clear my head after being inside for almost a week straight, was excited to wear clothes that make me feel good and put a bit of makeup on, only to feel quite frightened. I've been too scared to go for walks at night because the streets are so empty – if people can act like that during the day, there's no telling what others might do at night."
Iman, 25, from north London, was on her way to the supermarket when she heard two men shout at her. "On the high street I suddenly heard wolf whistling, I ignored it," she says. "Then I heard someone shout, 'Would you like to isolate with me baby?' and 'All that makeup for me?' I looked up and there was a man, topless, shouting at me through his window."

I felt really uncomfortable and embarrassed because this was the first time in weeks I put makeup on to make myself feel good and a man comes along to disturb my peace.

Iman, 25, london
"I felt really uncomfortable and embarrassed because this was the first time in weeks I put makeup on to make myself feel good and a man comes along to disturb my peace. This is the third time this has happened since lockdown. I've even stopped jogging outside because I feel super self-conscious that my curvier body keeps attracting catcalling from men."
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Bekki, 29, who also lives in the capital, was running along the Strand when a man approached her. "I thought this guy was legit going to attack me. He took his scarf off and was swinging it at me as I was trying to get past him on the pavement."
She says the man nearly boxed her in against a wall before she had to dart off in the opposite direction, and believes the lockdown has made it unsafe for women exercising outside alone. "It's so dangerous at the moment. There's no one about to witness things or to help you. It is what gives these people more power."

It's so dangerous at the moment. There's no one about to witness things or to help you. It is what gives these people more power.

Bekki, 29, London
Faye, 24, from Warwickshire, says she was shouted at by two men in a car while she was out walking with her 4-year-old daughter. "We were the only people on the path and two young men in a car drove by and shouted 'Slut!' at me out of the window."
She added that the incident has made her feel worried about seeing the car again when she's by herself with her daughter. "We are all living within such a restricted routine. It’s easy for people to see where you live, exercise, who you live with and so on, that gives me a greater sense of vulnerability than I would normally have."
Catcalling and street harassment is widespread and can come in many forms. It includes unwanted comments, honking of car horns, wolf-whistling, being followed, persistent sexual advances, gestures and touching by strangers in public places. According to YouGov, 52% of 18-24-year-old women have experienced sexual harassment in public, and the government has pledged to eliminate the sexual harassment of women and girls by 2030.
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New statistics from global children's charity Plan UK have revealed that one in five young women and girls have experienced street harassment during the lockdown, while over a quarter (28%) feel unsafe walking outside. The poll of over 1,000 14-21-year-olds also found that two in 5 (40%) feel unsafe walking alone, while a third (33%) have stopped going outside altogether.
As it stands, there are no laws to stop street harassment and now a petition is calling for public sexual harassment to be made illegal in the UK. Maya, 20, and her 15-year-old sister Gemma have both experienced public sexual harassment and say they are "sick of it". They launched the petition and campaign, called Our Streets Now, to change the law. "As young women, we have gotten so used to constantly being scared," the petition reads. "Public sexual harassment is an incredibly threatening thing to experience. It makes us feel powerless, objectified, hurt, and angry."
"This new law would be a powerful step in tackling inequality and in keeping women safe."

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