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What Cities Are Doing to Fight Street Harassment

One of the most common types of sexual harassment is also amongst the most difficult to legislate.
A woman holds a sign as she takes part in the #IWillGoOut rally as part of the International Women's March in Mumbai, India.
A woman holds a sign as she takes part in the #IWillGoOut rally as part of the International Women's March in Mumbai, India.Shailesh Andrade/Reuters

This week, social media was flooded with #metoo, a hashtag that survivors of sexual harassment and assault used to share their experiences and demonstrate the sweeping ubiquity of the problem. Some women recounted stories about being made to feel unsafe in public spaces and their own neighborhoods. While laws attempt to tackle many kinds of harassment and assault, one of the most pervasive—street harassment—is also amongst the most difficult to legislate. Still, a number of cities in the US and abroad have attempted to tackle street harassment with laws aimed at this problem some with threats of punishment, and others with education campaigns.

One of the most recent proposals is a bill, the Street Harassment Prevention Act (SHPA), introduced in February in Washington, D.C. by Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau that targets street harassment through “education, awareness, data collection, and culture change” as opposed to punishment.