The UK is planning to jail men who sexually harass women in public for up to two years under the new rules proposed by the government, media reports said.
The Home Office launched a consultation in this regard for amending the 1986 public order act to create a new offence of ‘public sexual harassment’.
Inclusion of the new offence was proposed by Tory leadership candidate Liz Truss, feminist campaigner and Home Office adviser on tackling violence against women Nimco Ali and home secretary Priti Patel, according to reports.
A recent report by the Office for National Statistics revealed that half of women aged 16 to 34 had been harassed in the last 12 months and nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) had experienced catcalls, whistles, unwanted sexual comments and jokes. A quarter felt they had been followed.
The Telegraph reported that the consultation provides a middle way between those who want ‘a wholly new offence’ and those who say public sexual harassment is already covered by existing criminal offences.
The consultation had been promised after the murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, a serving Met Police officer.
Under the proposed law, unlike hate crime, the defendant would not have to be motivated by hostility because of the victim’s sex.
The document stated: “Public sexual harassment will sometimes be based on such hostility, but not always, and this is one of the reasons why the Law Commission concluded that sex should not be added to hate crime legislation, and why the Government agrees with that conclusion.”
According to the proposal, prosecutors would have to show the perpetrator intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress, and that this had been felt by the victim.
It would be an offence if it was committed in any open space, on public transport, in a public building or workplace or if someone was shouting from an open window at a person on the street. Such harassment in a private dwelling would be excluded, reports said.
Last month, Truss vowed to make wolf-whistling and cat-calling illegal if she becomes the prime minister.
“Over the last two years, our nation has been shocked by a number of high-profile murders of women, many in London. Violence against women and girls doesn’t have to be inevitable. Women should be able to walk the streets without fear of harm, and perpetrators must expect to be punished,” Truss had said earlier.
“Through increased police training, new offences, faster processes for rape victims and our domestic abuse register we will ensure victims are protected, and crimes are prevented in the first place.”
Conservative former Home Office minister Rachel Maclean, told the MailOnline: “Women and girls should be free to live their lives in safety and I know as prime minister Liz will deliver tougher safeguards for domestic abuse victims, including tagging for the most violent offenders.”
The consultation closes on September 1, just four days before the new Tory leader is declared.