Catcalling is a form of public sexual harassment or street harassment.  It can include wolf-whistling, inappropriate sexual comments or gestures, sexist jokes, sexual innuendos and invading a person’s space.  Catcalling can start out seemingly harmless for example an unknown man asking a woman her name or for her phone number but refusing can sometimes escalate a situation and unfortunately, sometimes can lead to stalking, groping, flashing and even sexual assault and physical harm.

Catcalling is common and can happen on public transport, in the street, when out shopping, at the gym, in bars or cafes.  Many women have been victims of catcalling and a lot have grown accustomed to it.

A recent survey conducted by Hollaback and Cornell University discovered that 90 percent of women in the UK are harassed by the time they turn 17! Surveys also suggest that public sexual harassment seems to be happening more often now in England and Wales than it was five years ago. 

A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) last year found that 71 percent of women in the UK had experienced some form of sexual harassment but that 9 in 10 cases were not reported to the Police. It seems that a large majority of victims don’t report their experiences through fear.

Of late and following the tragic murder of Sarah Everard last year, violence against women and girls has been highlighted and there have been many protests calling for more to be done to protect young girls and women and it seems that the Government are starting to listen and take action.

Last year, the then Home Secretary, Priti Patel published the government’s new strategy “Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls” to ensure women and girls are safe everywhere - at home, online and on the streets. The strategy is to increase support for victims and survivors, increase the number of perpetrators brought to justice and reduce the occurrence of violence against women and girls in the long term.

As part of that new strategy around women’s safety, Priti Patel suggested that street harassment including catcalling and wolf-whistling could be criminalised in the UK and said the Government would "continue to look at gaps in existing laws and how an offence for sexual harassment could address those."

The Crown Prosecution Service have recently announced a toughening up of guidance and have suggested that people responsible for sexual harassment in the street including sexually threatening or abusive comments will be charged.  The CPS suggests that existing public order laws can be used to prosecute even when someone makes “one-off, less serious comments” or in incidents of “catcalling”.