Sheffield councillors share experiences of harassment and commit to taking more action

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Councillors have shared experiences of harassment during a full council meeting and committed to finding ways to tackle it.

A motion to back the student-led campaign Our Bodies, Our Streets and improve safety for women and girls was unanimously approved in a full council meeting this week.

Councillor Mary Lea, who presented the motion, said: “While we consider this today let us reflect during the debate on all the forms of abuse women experience: physical, sexual and emotional both in the home and on the streets in whatever form it takes because it seems to be all driven by a belief by some that it is permissible to behave in this way towards women. While we have come a long way over the years in changing attitudes and behaviour, many forms of abuse are still under-reported and even tolerated and more needs to be done to both change attitudes and make practical changes.”

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It was seconded by Coun Sioned-Mair Richards who said she has marched for action since the 1970s.

Sheffield Town HallSheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall

She said: “Every woman here will have lived experience of harassment whether in work or in public spaces, councillors, officers, members of the public, all women have lived experience of this and it’s been like this since our school days…

“I’m 63 now and I’m tired of waiting for it to get better for the words people use to say ‘yeah it’s bad isn’t it?’ but not willing to change attitudes or do anything else. I don’t want my granddaughter to be marching in forty years time, demanding the same thing that I’ve been calling for all my political life. This is a practical motion with practical ways to improve our public spaces for women and girls, let’s just get on with it.”

During the debate and amendments, councillors shared their own experiences of harassment.

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Coun Sophie Thornton said: “As a young woman, by virtue of who I am, I have been harassed, I have been catcalled, I have been solicited, I have not felt safe while walking home in this city. I can see it so clearly when I go for walks late at night to the shops with my male partner. I am always looking over my shoulder, I make sure I wear appropriate footwear, that I plan our routes based on where is well lit and he doesn’t have to think about those things.

“Women, girls as well as other marginalised genders experience this all the time, it is even more intersectionally layered with women of colour, people who have disabilities and trans women too.”

Coun Sophie Wilson said: “Most if not all women I know or have ever known have been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped to some extent and if that is happening to every woman and girl that I know, and I can see women around the room nodding, that is not a tiny minority of men.”

The council will work with the police and crime commissioner, businesses, community, student and voluntary groups and prepare a bid for funding based around the proposals outlined by Our Bodies, Our Streets.


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