Street Harassment: Know Your Rights

by Mariana Garces

Yesterday, Hollaback! came out with a “Know Your Rights” guidea comprehensive report documenting information on street harassment from 22 different countries and their local laws on street harassment. Hollaback! is a movement made up of activists around the world starting conversations about street harassment and working toward solutions for creating safer public spaces for women and LGBTQ people. 

 The report, made with the help of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, TrustLaw and global law firm DLA Piper, is broken down into sections by different countries and U.S. states, answering questions depending on the local laws, like: 

  • “Is street harassment against the law?”
  • “What kind of behavior is illegal?”
  • “What behaviors are outlawed specifically?”
  • “How should harassment be reported?”

Street harassment can happen anywhere, and in many different forms- whether it’s sexist, racist, transphobic or ableist other otherwise. It’s already difficult to know the different definitions of street harassment and local laws within the United States, as they vary from state to state. Hollaback! has gathered 11 legal teams using 12 different languages to research and write this report, which will be a resource for people to understand their rights in different places and how to best report street harassment. It’s part of the group’s initiative to educate people but also to find solutions within communities that do not rely on increased criminalization.

As Deputy Director of Hollaback! Dejani Roy wrote at the Huffington Post,

“Criminalizing verbal harassment and unwanted gestures is neither the final goal nor the ultimate solution to this problem and can, in fact, inadvertently work against the growth of an inclusive anti-harassment movement. The criminal justice system disproportionately targets and affects low-income communities and communities of color, as evidenced by policies such as New York City’s Stop and Frisk program and other degrading forms of racial profiling. Our objective is to address and shift cultural and social dialogues and attitudes of patriarchy that purport street harassment as simply the price you pay for being a woman or being LGBTQ. It is not to re-victimize men already discriminated against by the system.” 

Read the full report in a free PDF here and find out more information about the guide here.


Image: A woman walks past a building decorated with a pair of eyes in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, February 29, 2012. Reuters/Stringer

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