'Stop Catcalling': Children’s group campaigns for public sexual harassment to end
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Cape Town – Catcalling as a form of sexual harassment of children in public is largely ignored and allowed in communities.
So says Molo Songololo director Patric Solomons, adding that the silence and turning of a blind eye by communities and child protection services on the issue was unacceptable.
The organisation is embarking on a “Stop Catcalling” campaign where a group of youngsters in Atlantis hold weekly silent protests in the area at different locations calling on their peers to start “making noise” to stop catcalling.
This week the focus would be on boys and men who are victims of catcalling and public sexual harassment, effeminate, gay, transgender, boys and men catcalled and harassed by other boys and men.
Young Women’s Forum facilitator Chloe Johnson said following workshops with different young women in Atlantis about problems they faced regarding their safety, catcalling was one of the prominent issues that was raised.Johnson said boys as young as six years were out on the streets catcalling girls twice their age, while old men were harassing teenagers on street corners, from within their vehicles.
“According to the feedback we've received from the girls, this makes them feel disgusted in their own skin and unsafe in their communities. It affects their self esteem; they don't feel comfortable to wear what they want or to be built like they are. They definitely do not see catcalling as compliments, they see it as harassment,” she said.
Johnson said catcalling, unwanted sexual approaches and sexual harassment, intimidation and threats were everyday occurrences for girls in many communities.
“Some experience it in their own homes, by people who visit, or at the homes of those they visit. They experienced being catcalled and sexually harassed in school and in front of their schools by men in company cars and government vehicles.Teenage boys and men and those belonging to gangs are constantly interfering with girls and threatening them with violence and rape,” said Johnson.
Solomons said this unwanted verbal sexual abuse and harassment was relentless and happened daily to girls in their local communities. He said children and parents were helpless against these violations, and their response was to keep children at home.
Solomons said men who come into contact with children and teenagers in public, and who catcall, sexually harass and make unwanted advances must be held accountable for their conduct in public and elsewhere.
“There must be policies and guidelines to monitor behaviour of those who work in public, are drivers and get into contact with children. The local municipality, the City of Cape Town, provincial and national government, and private companies must be held responsible for the conduct of their employees in public,” he said.