Home Office suggests that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ‘misjudged the public mood’ after dismissing calls from campaigners and Home Secretary Priti Patel to make sexual harassment a crime.
Following the recent and harrowing events, Priti Patel’s consultation on dealing with violence against women and girls accrued contributions from over 180,000 people and expected to make street harassment a specific offence.
However. Sources from the Home Secretary’s department revealed to The Observer that Boris Johnson doesn’t support the move and also resisted appeals to make misogyny a hate crime, despite the behaviour being one of the root causes of violence towards women.
Johnson’s argument that there is ‘abundant’ legislature already in place has inevitably caused tensions throughout Home Office.
An anonymous senior Home Office source told the news outlet: ‘Trying to bring it down to wolf whistling is massively problematic. But we’re going to make this happen. People are prepared to put their political capital behind this, and the home secretary is among those very much behind it.’
Another source added: ‘Make no mistake, Boris Johnson is the person blocking and holding this back. He seems to be stuck in the past on this issue.’
Despite Boris Johnson’s lack of understanding on the issue, it is understood that Home Office officials are still conducting the legal review which could make public sexual harassment a crime.
Much bigger than a ‘wolf whistling’ issue
Contrary to Boris Johnson’s tone-deaf dismissals of female struggles, sexual harassment is more serious than any wolf whistling incident, with Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa being targeted while walking in public.
A YouGov survey conducted earlier this year also revealed that almost half of women have been sexually harassed on London public transport and suggested that most cases go unreported.
Priti Patel’s strategy totackle violence against women and children was published in July and aims to criminalise sexual harassment as a way of filing in the gaps in the legislature,
Georgina Laming at Plan International said: ‘This year, tens of thousands of women and girls have told the Home Office about their experiences of harassment and violence. Girls as young as ten are being harassed, followed and touched, and millions of them are forced to change the way they live their lives because of it.’
Public sexual harassment is relentless, and it needs to stop. The Home Office recognised that there are real gaps in legislation, which means girls aren’t protected from these behaviours by existing laws.
‘Walk Me Home’ emergency line could be in place by Christmas
Priti Patel is also said to be backing plans for an emergency phone line called ‘Walk Me Home’, which could be ready in time for Christmas.
To use the service, users will be able to open an app and request their journeys to be tracked. Users will enter their route, and the technology will estimate how long it would take the person to arrive, with notifications being sent out to friends or police if they failed to reach their destination on time. The service could also be used for public transport and will feature a one-touch police alert.
The proposed ‘Walk Me Home’ project, lead by Chief Executive of BT, Philip Jansen, is expected to help crack down on male violence. However, the app has received backlash for further restricting women.
The Women’s Trust explained: ‘Freedoms and rights shouldn’t be quashed to make more room and excuses for male violence. Funding an app, while survivors continue to be let down by the health and criminal justice systems is not the answer.’