Catcalling or wolf-whistling is set to become a criminal offence in England with sentences of up to two years in prison, Home Secretary Suella Braverman says.
The embattled Home Secretary, who has so far failed to fulfill her main duty in stopping illegal migration, announced that she has backed a change in the law to heavily penalise so-called street harassment.
The law will come on top of existing legislation against sexual harassment, which is already a criminal offence.
The new restrictions, which will come into effect next year, will criminalise public behaviours or gestures that are deemed to be intentionally made to alarm, distress, or harass someone based on their sex, the Daily Mail reported.
“Every woman should feel safe to walk our streets,” Suella Braverman said. “We are putting the needs of victims at the heart of our decision, which will mean the criminals who commit these acts face the consequences they deserve.”
“It’s a complex issue and we’ve carefully considered the arguments, taking into account a range of views.”
Once passed, the legislation would criminalise intentionally walking closely behind someone as they go home at night, making obscene or offensive gestures or comments towards a person, obstructing a person’s path, or driving or riding a vehicle slowly next to a person walking home, the BBC reported.
Penalties for such offences will be increased to up to two years behind bars.
The bill was crafted by former business secretary Greg Clark, who said that its aim is “to reinforce a change in the culture that establishes that it is completely unacceptable to abuse women in the streets”.
“Public sexual harassment can affect men and boys, but we should be clear that it disproportionately affects women and girls,” he added.
A YouGov survey from February found that 62 per cent of women in Britain have experienced cat-calling or wolf-whistling, while 43 per cent have reported being subject to unwelcome touching or groping.
Over a quarter of women (28 per cent) also reported having been subjected to indecent exposure.