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The UK is planning a bill to criminalize sexual harassment in public, which would make certain offenses such as catcalling punishable by law, the Washington Post reported.
The Conservative government, which dominates parliament, said it would back a bill to introduce harsher penalties for individuals who harass an individual in public because of the victim’s gender. This would ban various acts, such as walking behind someone as they head home at night or making obscene or aggressive comments or gestures toward an individual.
The maximum penalty is set to increase from six months to two years for those convicted.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the draft law is aimed at making women feel safer walking on the streets.
The proposed changes follow the gruesome murder last year of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, an off-duty Metropolitan Police officer in London. Couzens kidnapped, raped and strangled the 33-year-old woman after circling the capital in a rental car to “hunt” for a lone woman.
The death damaged public trust in police and focused attention on the dangers that women confront when they are alone in public places. According to the opinion pollsters YouGov, 62 percent of Brits believe police do not treat sexual harassment seriously enough.
Elsewhere in Europe, Belgium, France, and Portugal have already made verbal or public sexual harassment a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment.