Tackling harassment: finding the right balance

In light of Nottinghamshire, UK's recent decision to class harassment as a hate crime, new blogger Marie Claire takes a look at some of the efforts to tackle this pervasive problem and explores whether legislation and segregation have a positive or negative impact.

Anti-street harassment campaigners in Hawaii [Credit: Pixel Project]

Anti-street harassment campaigners in Hawaii [Credit: Pixel Project]

A young woman walks down the street alone, walking home. As she passes, loud calls not only objectify her, but also utilize gross demeaning sexist slurs to describe her as she passes. This sad and humiliating situation is a reality for women across the world. It is common for women of all ages and backgrounds to often feel threatened or isolated in public, especially when individuals - generally of the opposite gender - draw attention to them through verbal assault and uninvited sexual advances.

Although these often male to female instigated situations are not illegal, women can feel threatened by these situations and feel as though their privacy has been breached. But now the British county of Nottinghamshire is making such acts illegal, considering them "misogyny hate crimes."

Legislating fair & equal treatment

Nottinghamshire is taking powerful strides for the women's movement and for finally putting on paper the legitimacy of sexism. Any cases of "unwanted or uninvited sexual advances [and] physical or verbal assault" are now considered misogynistic hate crimes and will be saving women lots stress when in public.

This extension of protection for women is monumental for the women's movement and reinforces a woman's true worth. Women can finally be protected by law against uncomfortable and often dangerous situations in public. Having a law that protects women to this extent will help seta precedent for societies, providing safety for all people and establishing respectful ideologies towards individuals of the opposite gender.

In the United States, "only about half the states prohibit gender-based hate crimes.” How women are treated and women's issues are considered minor issues, causing the female gender to be seen as less important than males in the eyes of the law. Not legislating fair treatment of all genders causes (most often) the female gender to be seen as lesser than the other gender. Without equal lawful protection, women are in jeopardy of being subjected to unfair treatment due to their gender.

Segregating the sexes – taking things too far?

However, not all steps to tackle street harassment are positive. Another recent development is the emergence of "female-only train carriages." Although these new initiatives to segregate genders in the name of protecting women may seem like a solution, the result could not be farther from that idea. Establishing gender segregation only reinforces sexism and the ideology that women and men are not equals. Many countries, including Germany, Switzerland, and the United States, have caught on to this demeaning and retroactive sex segregation practice.

These Western practices prove that misogynistic ideologies are scoured across international cultures, and instead of being identified and resolved, are being temporarily fixed through segregation.

If women can't be safe around men and societies are aware of this problem for women, measures should be enacted to integrate the two genders so social standards can be shaped for the two genders to respect each other. Diving genders even further, and making sexism socially and lawfully accepted is the last thing we need.