Tackling harassment

A discussion about online harassment took place earlier this week in Parliament, where strategies to reduce these incidents on social media were debated.

According to a two thousand seventeen survey, conducted by Opinium, for the children’s charity Plan International UK, almost half of all young women in the UK have experienced harassment or abuse online, even though this kind of offensive behaviour could be classified as a hate crime, which takes into consideration offences motivated by hostility towards people of different gender.

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Chrissy Derbyshire, who is in her 30s, recently experienced online abuse after using a popular hashtag for posting a selfie online. ‘Not really realising that using a hashtag that was trending would cause that people to be seen by lots of people not all of whom would be particularly nice about it. I had several guys calling me names, saying things they would like to do to me and it was unpleasant and a little bit disturbing, made me feel helpless and disempowered because they were vicariously using or showing some idea of ownership over my body.’

Cardiff North MP, Anna McMorrin, who discussed the matter in parliament, argued that something needs to change about the current situation, she says ‘‘self-policing on social media hasn’t work, and Matt Hancock, the Culture Secretary has said that, but legislation is needed and he is not taking action quickly enough, and doesn’t have the power to police social media firms. It is embarrassing that he invited fourteen social media companies for discussion, only four of those turned out, that’s an embarrassment they don’t even take the UK Government seriously enough to turn up, this absolutely demonstrated that they must be regulated, something absolutely must be done.’’

The Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, was contacted but did not respond.



The figures are also alarming when it comes to street harassment. According to research conducted by YouGov last year, in the UK, more than fifty percent of eighteen to twenty-four-year-old women have experienced sexual harassment, in a public place. Incidents are most likely to occur at clubs, pubs and streets, with 64% of young women revealing that it happened to them in the street or in a pub, while 61% of them experienced it in a club or bar.

Teenage girl, Ceira Moulton, says that unfortunately, she went through harassment in the street, while walking out of clubs in Cardiff, ‘when I’m with a group of people they sort of intimidate people away but walking out of the club as they (people) walk ahead of me, I’ve been grabbed quite a few times, most people grabbing my wrists and pulling me back and things’

Dr Jolien van Breen, an expert in Social Psychology says that anyone who experienced something like that will know that it can be quite ‘scary’ and ‘threatening’, but also there’s an element that it supposed to be a ‘compliment’, she says, ‘‘the perpetrator can always defend themselves by saying ‘oh, it’s just a compliment, calm down’ and that leads to an element of feeling a bit silly that you’re worrying about it and an element of self-blame, I think that’s not only typical for catcalling but also for other experiences of harassment’’.

In March, Shadow Housing Minister, Labour’s Melanie Onn suggested changes in the law, such as treating misogynistic acts: wolf-whistling, catcalling and upskirting as hate crimes. It is yet to be seen whether such measures will be rolled out nationwide, which would aim to improve women’ safety and reduce harassment.

In addition, while in 2017, former Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, announced a series of measures to tackle online hate crime, the project was criticised by MPs and campaigners for the budget allocated, which consisted of overall £200,000, meaning approximately £3 per incident.

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