By Guillermo Garrido
Edinburgh, UK, Mar 14 (EFE).- Two in three women in Scotland do not feel safe walking home alone at night and are “scared” to take public transport, recent polling has found as local authorities mull the designation of misogynistic harassment as a separate hate crime.
Scotland’s new transport minister Jenny Gilruth raised the issue in the devolved parliament last month, describing harassment on public transport such as trains as a “systemic issue,” making them a place where “women are scared to go because of men’s behavior.”
Kira Anderson, an Edinburgh student who took part in the Scotpulse survey, spoke to Efe about her own experiences.
“Well every weekend, it doesn’t stop me from going out but walking home at night is very, very scary. Whenever you see someone you kind of cross over the other side of the road,” she said.
Fellow student Elsa Hunter echoed those words.
“Honestly, in general as a woman it’s always scary, you don’t put in your ear buds, you have to watch out who’s around you, you have to watch your surroundings.
“In general I try not to take alleyways or really small streets, I try to stay on the busiest roads and just plan exactly where I’m going,” she added.
A DAILY PROBLEM
Sandy Brindley, the director of Rape Crisis Scotland, highlights how women face significant levels of harassment on the street and in public places “just going about our daily lives.”
“I think this harassment can have a really significant impact in stopping us from feeling comfortable really fully occupying public places.”
A working group on misogyny informed the Scottish government that 36.5% of survey respondents had experienced inappropriate behavior on public transport, 52.2% in nightclubs, 55% at work and 63.5% in the street, according to the report Misogyny – A Human Rights issue, led by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.
The working group is lobbying the Scottish government to designate misogynistic behavior as its own hate crime.
Anderson, the student, told Efe that she had been followed on her way home at night and had to pretend to use the phone to feel safe.
She is by no means alone in this predicament and it is one that Rachel Chung and Alice Jackon have sought to tackle with their initiative Strut Safe, a free call service for women to call from anywhere in the United Kingdom.
The idea came after a London police officer kidnapped and murdered Sarah Everard while she was on her way home in March last year.
Registered sex crimes have increased 21.5% in the last five years and in 2021 topped 7,519.
Almost half of Scots reported having witnessed “inappropriate behavior” on public transport, according to the government survey.
Transport minister Gilruth said the government would consult with organizations on how best to tackle the issue. One of the proposals broached was to install women-only carriages on trains.