Our Streets Now (OSN) is the nationwide campaign to end public sexual harassment (PSH), curated by sisters Maya and Gemma Tutton. They were angered at how PSH is normalised, belittled and overlooked. Without PSH, public spaces are safe for women, girls and marginalised genders.
Tired of feeling sexualised in school uniform, anxious on public transport, and scared walking alone down streets, the sisters decided to channel their rage into change. They created a petition to make PSH illegal in the UK, and in less than 100 days, it had over 100 000 signatures. As a result of this petition, on 22nd November 2020 OSN went into an official partnership with global children’s charity Plan International UK, to call on Parliament to make public sexual harassment a specific criminal offence.
Their goal grew bigger as they then desired to create a safe space where victims could discuss PSH experiences. As more and more people shared this taboo information, the campaign became a community. This community is imperative for victims, as 2 in 3 girls are subject to PSH during their lifetime, according to Plan UK.
OSN’s campaign has two strands. The first involves encouraging awareness and education of PSH, as OSN recognises that society needs to discuss the subject to understand its pervasiveness and bearing. The second is from a legislative and political standpoint, as if our laws are to reflect our society, PSH should be a criminal offence in the UK, as it is in other countries.
Another element to OSN has been implemented, as their campaign intends to reach those in Higher Education Institutions. Matilda Hubble and I have been assigned the role of Durham’s Higher Education Ambassadors, meaning that we are tasked with creating an anti-PSH campaign here at Durham, raising awareness of the prevalence of PSH in HE institutions, and working with the University to implement positive changes in the institution as well as in Durham (as a city). This week, alongside other universities and HE institutions, our OSN Higher Education Campaign has launched here in Durham, which aims to show the impact of PSH on HE students.
OSN believes that PSH is an intersectional issue and that racism, ableism and other forms of discrimination are intrinsically linked to this issue. As a campaign, its four priorities are, “to reduce the shame and stigma for victims of PSH, to prevent boys from ever becoming perpetrators of PSH, to tackle myths around victim-blaming, [and] to promote bystander intervention.”
It is an honour to have this campaign being brought to Durham, allowing students to take action, change society, and make everyone feel safe in a public space. PSH impacts mental health, restricts freedoms and challenges women, girls and marginalised genders’ safety; this has to end.
Image: Our Streets Now.