UK Clubs Unite To Fight Sexual Harassment With New Zero Tolerance Policy

women-nightclubs

Sexual Harassment is no joke. The toughest thing about this issue, is that there is not enough legislation in some areas where it is a crime, and therefore women feel they aren’t protected enough to report it. The culture in many countries makes far too many allowances for men and perpetrators to get away with their inexcusable actions, but if there isn’t a huge push to crack down on this predatory behavior, it will continue for generations.

A new initiative in London, UK, is aiming to stop sexual harassment from occurring in nightclubs and bars, the type of venues that see frequent drugging of women. Southwark Council, an area of south-east London, have developed a new Women’s Safety Charter which enables women to report sexual harassment with ease, and know that the venue is going to help them out, not ignore them.

The council has asked many local businesses to sign up to the charter and help them fight this epidemic. Thirty venues, including the famous Ministry of Sound nightclub and Elephant and Castle’s The Coronet, had already signed up when the charter was launched on Tuesday, Dec 16. They are hoping the majority of the nearly 500 businesses in the area will join this initiative.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that female sexual harassment in bars and night clubs is seen as normalized behavior and goes unchallenged and unreported. Harassment can frequently be trivialized and women and men can feel that it is not worth confronting. Southwark Council takes this type of harassment seriously and believes it is an issue that reduces women’s quality of life,” says the Charter.

“The charter is based on a number of key principles which ensure that all staff working at licensed premises act in a responsible and supportive manner, taking all reports seriously. The intention is that the WSC will send out a clear message that female harassment in these premises will not be tolerated. ”

women-nightclubs

Here are the 5 points of the Charter that the venues will abide by:

1. Prominently display high visibility posters in the venue which discourage harassment and encourage reporting

2. Take every report of harassment and sexual intimidation seriously and take appropriate action

3. Take active steps to support persons who report harassment or sexual intimidation which might take place in their premises

4. Train all front of house staff to address women’s safety and harassment

5. Take active steps to ensure women leave the venue safely.

“Everyone deserves to enjoy a night out without the fear of harassment or intimidation. This new charter is our commitment to promoting a culture where women’s safety is taken seriously, and nights out can be enjoyed without any hassle. We want to show harassment to women and girls isn’t acceptable,” Radha Burgess, Southwark’s deputy cabinet member for women’s safety, said to the Telegraph.

“We the council have decided it’s a strategic thing that we want to roll out and it’s policy. We’ve made sure it’s reflective of what women want and what venues want. I’m confident that no one else does this. When we started doing it, I was scouring for other examples and we have had to create the best practice ourselves. It’s a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and groping.”

The charter was created after research gathered from female residents found that in general venues were not taking any complaints they had seriously.

“They felt bouncers were sometimes part of the problem rather than the solution. Women had concerns about getting home if they had a bad time in the club like being groped,” said Radha.

“We need to help women get home safely. Women in nightclubs still feel men are quite predatory. I think harassment of women is all about the idea that women are occupying men’s spaces. They’re either not welcome or need to be controlled in some way. That kind of feeling underpins how women feel in public spaces and nightclubs.”

women-nightclubs

Radha believes it is going to take a concerted effort from everyone to crack down on this unwanted behavior. It’s not just the responsibility of the police, but fellow citizens, nightclub owners and bar managers need to be diligent in taking the complaints seriously, she said.

“We’re confident we’ll enact cultural change, and make life more pleasant for men and women. If you take women’s safety seriously, everyone benefits. I’d like to see a day where charters aren’t necessary.”

If this initiative shows signs of improving the experience of women who go to clubs and bars in the area, the council plans on extending the program to other areas where sexual harassment is common: parks, shopping malls, and even in broad daylight on the street in places like a construction zone.

She calls it a “quality of life issue” when women have to worry about walking to school or work and risking a wolf-whistle or unwanted comment simply because of their gender.

“I would love every borough in London, if not the whole country, to do this. We would be absolutely happy as a council to share everything we’ve learned going through this process,” she said, hoping this will grow into something that the rest of the country will want to implement.

For the record, The Southwark Council have teamed up with Hollaback!, the same organization who released the now-viral video of the young woman walking around New York City for ten hours being constantly harassed by men on the street. This is a group dedicated to creating awareness about the dangers of street harassment, and it seems the Southwark Council are determined to end it in their area. Here’s hoping more cities will follow suit.

cheers

 

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