Shocking stories of harassment faced by female pupils

Written by: Emma Lee-Potter | Published:

Some girls are taking longer routes to school, wearing headphones to pretend they are on the phone, and dressing differently to avoid being harassed in public, a survey has found.

Research conducted by children’s charity Plan International UK discovered that more than a third of girls in the UK have received unwanted sexual attention while wearing their school uniform in public.

Their experiences included being groped, stared at, cat-called, wolf-whistled and hearing sexual comments.

One in eight girls said their first experience of unwanted sexual attention or contact in public had occurred when they were 12 or younger.

Plan International UK, which surveyed 1,004 girls aged 14 to 21, found that one in seven had been followed while in school uniform. Eight per cent had been filmed or photographed by a stranger without their permission or someone had taken a photograph up their school skirt.

The charity has published a report on the impact of street harassment on girls and women in the UK. It finds that 66 per cent of girls in the UK have experienced sexual attention or physical contact in a public place and 15 per cent of girls are being touched, groped or grabbed every month.

A 16-year-old girl from Glasgow told the report’s authors: “When I was 15, I was in school uniform and sat on a train and this guy kept trying to put his hand on my leg. I ended up getting off the train at the next stop and just being completely lost.”

Tanya Barron, chief executive of Plan International UK, said: “It is shocking and deeply concerning that girls, many of whom are clearly of school age because they are in uniform, are being targeted and sexually harassed by perpetrators in the street.

“It’s simply not acceptable that girls as young as 12 are being wolf-whistled at in public, touched against their will, stared at or even followed. This disgraceful behaviour needs to be called out and stopped.”

Among the report’s recommendations is a clear role for relationships and sex education, which is to become a statutory subject from September 2020.

The report states: “Young people need comprehensive RSE. Specifically, boys need education on gender roles and masculinity that addresses respect, consent, and the nature of gender-based violence in both intimate relationships and interactions with strangers.”


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