One in three girls harassed while wearing uniform, report finds

by Nik Taylor | 8 Oct 2018

More than a third of UK girls have been harassed in public while wearing their school uniform, a survey has found.

The report, by girls' rights charity Plan International UK, shows that 35% of girls have experienced unwanted sexual attention or contact (such as being groped, stared at and wolf-whistled) while wearing their school uniform.

More than 1,000 girls aged 14-21 were polled. The report also found:

  • One in eight girls said they were no older than 12 when they first experienced unwanted sexual attention
  • One in seven girls had been followed while in uniform
  • Some 37% had been been sexually harassed while travelling to or from school
  • One quarter had been filmed or photographed by a stranger without permission

The report also features stories from some of those polled, including 16-year-old Jess, from Glasgow. “When I was 15, I was in school uniform and sat on a train and this guy kept trying to put his hand on my leg," she said.

“I was like, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ I ended up getting off the train at the next stop and just being completely lost.

“It was such a horrible experience. I was going to see my biology tutor and I arrived at the library in tears, I was really upset about it.

“I think the worst part was feeling guilty because I was wearing a skirt, which is stupid because it shouldn’t matter what I was wearing, but in the moment it did.”

The charity is calling on the government to recognise street harassment as a type of "gender-based violence".

Its recommendations include training for bystanders on how to safely intervene in cases of on-street harassment, as well as support for boys and men to help change their attitudes and challenge harassment.

Tanya Barron, chief executive at Plan International UK, said, “It is shocking and deeply concerning that girls, many of whom are clearly of school age because they are in uniform, are being targeted and sexually harassed by perpetrators in the street.

“It’s simply not acceptable that girls as young as 12 are being wolf-whistled at in public, touched against their will, stared at or even followed. This disgraceful behaviour needs to be called out and stopped.”

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