A call from a new women’s support group launched in Kirkcaldy for on-the-spot fines for men who sexually harass women in the street has won support.
Women Together In Fife (WTF) wants the Scottish Government to introduce new laws in a bid to change behaviours – and put an end to cat-calling, wolf whistles and jeers.
This week that styance was supported by Fife women’s Aid which said attitudes had to change.
The debate was sparked by WTF who say women have tolerated harassment for far too long.
It said it was “a sad indictment of society” that women had to put up with such behaviour, and suggested possible solutions could be making harassment of women a hate crime, or a new stand-alone law of misogyny, meaning hatred or dislike of women.
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Marie Penman, co-founder, feels that more needs to be done to combat the way women are treated by men in public.
‘The women at our meeting admitted that they had become so accustomed to being shouted, whistled or jeered at by men in public that they now just accept it as part of normal life,” she explained.
“What a sad indictment of society that is.
“One woman told us she had been walking along the street in broad daylight recently when a man walked past and told her she had a ‘nice ****’.
“She was so annoyed, she shouted at him and he shuffled off, embarrassed.
“But really, why should women have to put up with this type of nonsense in a modern Scotland?’
During an in-depth discussion at its recent meeting, it emerged that every single woman present, regardless of age, had experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public place.
The group noted that France had passed new legislation this year to issue on-the-spot fines to men who harass women in public places, and agreed this would be “a welcome addition to the Scottish system”.
Support came from Fife Women’s Aid, which provides support and help to women and families who know from experience how violence can escalate.
“Wolf -whistling, cat-calling, jeering and women being told to ‘Cheer up, love, it’s not that bad’ all give the idea that it’s okay for men to feel entitled to comment on how a woman looks,” said Heather Williams, manager of Fife Women’s Aid.
“It may seem low level and you’re the ‘fun police’ if you criticise it but it creates an environment which gives some men permission to behave in more extreme ways.
“It can be minor but for people who think it is okay to abuse, it’s another way to objectify women.
“Whether a woman is out running, in the pub or in the street, it is wrong that some man thinks he has the right to make them think they are not safe.
“It’s about misogyny and this ‘banter’ objectifies women.”
Unless a stand was taken against it, such as making it a crime, then society was sending out the message that it was acceptable, Heather continued.
“For a lot of women and girls, school, streets, work and even home are not safe places until we address the misogyny that sees women as objects,” she said.
It was not so much about the language used but the message it sends out about that the right to comment.
While it might seem a big leap from “a bit of banter” to domestic abuse, Heather pointed out it was the same attitude of mysogyny which led to two women a week losing their lives from domestic abuse.