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Young Women Feel Unsafe in Public – NFP Report


12 May 2016 at 11:46 am
Ellie Cooper
One in three young women aged 15 to 19 agreed that “girls should not be out in public places after dark”, according to research from two Australian Not for Profits.

Ellie Cooper | 12 May 2016 at 11:46 am


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Young Women Feel Unsafe in Public – NFP Report
12 May 2016 at 11:46 am

One in three young women aged 15 to 19 agreed that “girls should not be out in public places after dark”, according to research from two Australian Not for Profits.

A right to the night  graphicThe survey, A Right to the Night, commissioned by Plan International Australia and Our Watch, also found 23 per cent of girls believed it was unsafe to travel alone on public transport.

The results showed that many girls internalised widely-held beliefs that public places were unsafe for them, and that onus was on them to modify their behaviour.

Although respondents said sexual harassment in public places was both a serious issue and never justified, 17 per cent believed girls’ clothing choices make them at least partly responsible for unwanted attention or harassment.

“This perception, along with a pervasive culture of victim-blaming – where it is common to ask ‘why was she out after dark?’ and ‘what was she wearing?’ in response to incidents of violence or sexual harassment against women and girls in public places – is unfairly shifting the responsibility for safety in public places away from the perpetrators of crimes and onto women and girls,” the report said.

“Such perceptions are limiting the rights of girls and young women in Australia and around the world to move freely in public places and participate in activities outside the home.”

Our Watch chief executive officer Mary Barry said the survey results stemmed from gender inequality in Australia.

“Women and girls should not have to modify their behaviour to avoid being targets of harassment and abuse. Perpetrators must learn that aggressive and disrespectful behaviour and harassment against women is unacceptable,” Barry said.

“To stop this from happening in the first place we must focus on addressing the drivers of gender-based violence through promoting positive, equal and respectful relationships.”

The young women who took part in the survey also offered a range of solutions, including better education about gender equality and respect, improved urban infrastructure such as street lighting, and a greater police presence.

Global research conducted by Plan International revealed girls feel similarly unsafe in cities in Ecuador, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Peru, Vietnam and Egypt.

Girls feel safer in Nicaragua than in Australia, with 23 per cent believing they shouldn’t be outside after dark, compared to 30 per cent.

Deputy CEO of Plan International Australia Susanne Legena said the international comparison was a poor reflection on Australian culture.    

“It’s alarming that girls feel similarly unsafe in Australian cities as girls in countries with much higher rates of actual violence. This is a wakeup call for our federal and state governments, police and community leaders,” Legena said.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos, interviewed 600 Australians young women from all states and territories.


Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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