The country has taken an important step in the protection of women in public places as Greg Clark MP’s Protection from Sex-based Harassment in Public Bill received Royal Assent and became law on Monday night.
Greg Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells said:
“For too long, too many women and girls have felt unsafe when alone on our streets. They have become used to being followed and harassed in public places, causing them to behave differently to men – such as by avoiding walking alone after dark, taking different routes home, or gripping keys in their hands for self protection.
"The new Protection from Sex-based Harassment in Public Act 2023, will for the first time make deliberately harassing women in public on the grounds of their sex a specific criminal offence.
"Shouting racial abuse in the street at someone has long been considered not only unacceptable, but also criminal. And despite the fact that it is illegal to sexually harass someone at work or to racially abuse someone in the street, there has been no specific criminal offence of deliberately harassing a woman in public even when it is the perpetrator’s clear intention to cause alarm, distress or humiliation.
"The effect of this Act makes intentional sexual harassment in public places a specific crime and aligns the penalties available with those for harassment on grounds of race, sexuality and disability.
"Now my Private Member's Bill has received Royal Assent, I hope it will help drive a cultural change, rather than need many arrests. Everyone should now know that it is not only unacceptable to harass a woman in public, it is a crime. The Police will know that they must take seriously women being followed or harassed. And I hope that more women will have the confidence to report such incidents, knowing that they will not be dismissed. As a result, women and girls will feel safer on our streets.
"I would like to thank campaigners who supported my Private Member's Bill – including Plan International, Our Streets Now, Reclaim the Night and the Soroptimists – as well as MPs from all parties and the eminent lawyer Lord Wolfson of Tredegar KC who took the Bill through the House of Lords, culminating in Royal Assent from the King on Tuesday evening.”