Street harassment

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"Catcall" redirects here. For the novel, see Catcall (novel).

Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, wolf-whistlings, "catcalling", and other actions by strangers in public areas. Taking photos of strangers without consent as street photography and photojournalism practitioners do is not street harassment.[citation needed]


Street harassment is also known as catcalling. Catcalling is defined as a whistle, shout, or a sexual move as a person walks by another person.[1]

According to Stop Street Harassment, street harassment is "unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation."[2] In much of South Asia, the term is called "eve teasing".


A number of studies from around the world have attempted to assess the prevalence of street harassment.

A 2014 study of 2,000 Americans was commissioned by an activist group and conducted by GfK. 65% of women and 25% of men reported having been the victims of street harassment in their lives. 41% of women and 16% of men said they had been physically harassed in some way, such as by being followed, flashed, or groped.[3]

The Canadian government sponsored a large data research project in 1993 called the Violence Against Women Survey. In the data sample of over 12,000 women, 85% said they were victims of harassment by a stranger.[4]

In a 2002 survey of Beijing residents, 58% cited public buses as a common location for sexual harassment.[5]

Additional studies on the prevalence of public harassment have been conducted in the United Kingdom, Poland, Egypt, India, Israel, South Korea, Yemen, and others.[6]

LGBT community[edit]

Members of the LGBT community may be particularly susceptible. 66% of LGBT respondents in a 2012 European Union survey said that they avoid holding hands in public for fear of harassment and assault. 50% said they avoid certain places or locations, and the places they listed as most unsafe to be open about their sexual orientations were "public transport" and "street, square, car parking lot, or other public space."[7] The 2014 GfK survey of Americans also reported higher incidence of harassment for LGBT people.[3] According to the Stop Street Harassment national survey, LGBT men are 17 percent more likely to experience physical aggressive harassment and 20 percent more likely to encounter verbal harassment than heterosexual men.[8]

Health effects[edit]

A 2000 article, based on Canada's Violence Against Women Survey, showed that past exposure to harassment from strangers is an important factor in women's perceptions of their safety in public. Harassment from a stranger, as opposed to an acquaintance, is more likely to induce fear of sexual victimization.[4]

A study published in 2010 reported that "the experience of street harassment is directly related to a greater preoccupation with physical appearance and body shame, and is indirectly related to heightened fears of rape... Stranger harassment reduces feelings of safety while walking alone at night, using public transportation, walking alone in a parking garage, and while home alone at night."[9]

Public attitudes[edit]

YouGov conducted a poll of about 1,000 Americans in August 2014. In their findings, 72% said it was never appropriate to make a "catcall." In addition to this, 18% said it was sometimes appropriate to catcall and 2% said it was always acceptable. The majority (55%) labelled catcalling "harassment", while 20% called it "complimentary". Americans in the 18–29 age range were the most likely to categorize catcalling as complimentary.[10]


Public activism against street harassment has grown since the late 2000s. A group called Stop Street Harassment began as a blog in 2008 and became incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2012.[11] The organization provides tips for dealing with street harassment in safe and assertive ways, as well as provide opportunities to "take community action". In 2010, Stop Street Harassment started the annual "International Anti-Street Harassment Week". During the third week in April, people from around the globe participated in "marches, rallies, workshops, and sidewalk chalkings" in an effort to gain attention for the issue.[12] Another group called Hollaback! was founded in 2010.

Activists have made use of viral videos to publicize the frequency of unsolicited comments that women receive in public areas.[13][14]

One American street artist used Kickstarter to raise money for a campaign called "Stop Telling Women to Smile." The artist posts portraits of herself and other young women accompanied with messages against street harassment.[15]

A Minneapolis woman created a set of printable "Cards Against Harassment" (in homage to the game Cards Against Humanity) that she distributes to street harassers. The cards are meant to explain to street harassers why their comments are unwanted.[16]


In some jurisdiction there are laws that make some forms of street harassment illegal. Peru has an anti-street harassment law since March 2015.[17]

Across the US the laws/punishment for street harassers falls into the hands of the state. In Illinois there are laws that relate to street harassment. Laws such as disorderly conduct, intimidation or soliciting a sexual act can be used in court if a report is filed.[citation needed]

Quezon City, which has a high rate of street harassment,[18] implemented an ordinance against street harassment, such as cat-calling and wolf-whistling, on May 16, 2016. The city government's imposed penalties for acts of street harassment included fines of Php 1,000 to Php 5,000 and a 1-month jail term.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whittaker, Elizabeth; Robin M. Kowalski (2015). "Cyberbullying Via Social Media". Journal of School Violence. Taylor & Francis. 14 (1): 11–29. doi:10.1080/15388220.2014.949377. Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "What is street harassment?". Stop Street Harassment. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Unsafed and Harassed in Public Spaces" (pdf). Stop Street Harassment. Spring 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Macmillan, Ross; Nieorbisz, Annette; Welsh, Sandy (1 August 2000). "Experiencing the Streets: Harassment and Perceptions of Safety among Women". Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 37 (3): 306–322. doi:10.1177/0022427800037003003. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "Harassment rampant on public transportation". Shanghai Star. 11 April 2002. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Statistics - Academic and Community Studies". Stop Street Harassment. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "EU LGBT survey – European Union lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survey – Main results" (pdf). Fundamental Rights Agency. October 2014. pp. 87–89. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  8. ^ Miller, Hayley (June 4, 2014). "LGBT Men Experience High Rates of Street Harassment". Human Rights Campaign. [dead link]
  9. ^ Chaudoir, Stephenie R.; Quinn, Diane M. (3 March 2010). "Bystander Sexism in the Intergroup Context: The Impact of Cat-calls on Women's Reactions Towards Men". Sex Roles. 62 (9): 623–634. doi:10.1007/s11199-009-9735-0. 
  10. ^ Moore, Peter. "Catcalling: Never OK and not a compliment". YouGov. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "About". Stop Street Harassment. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "International Anti-Street Harassment Week". Stop Street Harassment. 
  13. ^ Leeds, Sarene (3 October 2014). "Jessica Williams Continues Her War Against Catcalls on 'The Daily Show'". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  14. ^ Hajela, Deepti (30 October 2014). "Viral Video Documents New York Street Harassment". ABC News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 31 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (9 April 2014). "An Artist Demands Civility on the Street With Grit and Buckets of Paste". New York Times. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  16. ^ Silva, Estey (24 July 2014). "Cards Against Harassment address street harassers directly". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Criminalising the catcallers". The Economist. May 23, 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  18. ^ Rodriguez, Fritzie (March 8, 2016). "The streets that haunt Filipino women". Rappler. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  19. ^ Sauler, Erika (June 1, 2016). "In QC, wolf whistles can land you to jail". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved June 2, 2016.