London Catcalling: Mayoral Candidates Campaign Against Street Harassment

BY CATHERINE FAVORITE

It’s not every day we come across a political campaign that makes street harassment one of the central points of their platform. In London, however, two of the candidates running for mayor are doing just that. Siobhan Benita, an independent and Ken Livingstone, the Labor Party candidate, have both come out in favor of doing more to prevent street harassment, as a part of their efforts to address violence against women and girls.

Both Livingstone and Benita recently issued their own crime manifestos promising to address street harassment and street violence in London.

Three tenets from Benita’s manifesto include:

• Guaranteed continuation of funding for all four Rape Crisis Centres in London for at least the length of my mayoralty and work with London boroughs to expand provision across the Capital.
• Tackle harassment of women and girls in public spaces in London and on our transport system.
• Develop a London-wide plan to combat forced marriage, honour- based violence and female genital mutilation, including evaluating the effectiveness of current approaches.
Ken Livingstone’s crime manifesto, meanwhile, offers suggestions for more community-organized watches for safer streets and wants to create a public campaign against sexual harassment in London’s public spaces.

Ms. Benita cited the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition, when referencing her reasons for taking an active stance against street harassment, which says: “The four million women and girls who live in London have the right to feel and be safe in their communities, workplaces, at school, on public transport, in the street and at home.”

“As a mother of two daughters, I couldn’t agree more. Furthermore, I believe this statement applies equally to every person living in London, regardless of their sexuality, gender, age, race, faith, or disability.”

If every person with a daughter thought the way Ms. Benita does about making the world a better place for girls to grow up in, or pushed for more public responsibility, like Mr. Livingstone, street harassment would no longer exist. Regardless of who becomes London’s next mayor, this issue now has the potential to become part of the wider discussion on gender and sexuality inequality.

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