Dear Sadiq Khan,
Despite the fact that streets are emptier and many public spaces are closed, street harassment is still a serious problem. I am calling on you as Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner of London to ensure that women and girls can enjoy their daily exercise and move around our great city free from the fear or threat of violence or abuse.
One in five women and girls in the UK experienced street harassment during lockdown. This figure is far worse in London; more than half of women surveyed by Catcalls of London said street harassment got worse during the lockdowns, and 62% feared for their safety. Our branch in Lambeth conducted their own survey, and found that the most common forms of street harassment were catcalling, wolf whistling or unwanted comments, followed by unwanted physical contact, being followed, or sexual gestures. Respondents also said photos had been taken of them without consent, and perpetrators had even masturbated in front of them.
London remains the worst city in the UK for street harassment and harassment on public transport. In 2016, ActionAid found that nationally, 36% of women feel at risk of harassment from public transport, but that rises to 51% for women living in London. Four years later those numbers have not changed; more than half of women experienced sexual harassment whilst using public transport in 2020, but only 2% felt able to report it.
On International Women’s Day last year, you called for misogyny to be made a hate crime. Yet women are in the same position as they were in when you first became Mayor. We cannot simply wait for Central Government to change the law, and it is within your power to do something about this. Moving more Londoners to walking and cycling is a vital part of fighting Covid and making our city greener, but you cannot ask more women to use our streets without doing anything to ensure they feel safe to do so.
I am calling on you as a ‘Proud Feminist’ to fulfil your promise to make London a beacon of freedom and equality for women and girls, by developing a London-wide strategy to end street harassment and abuse on the transport network, including a public education campaign. I stand ready to work with you to make our streets and transport network safe for all women and girls.
Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party and candidate for Mayor of London