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Make PSH Illegal: the campaign.

I was a child when I first experienced public sexual harassment.

I was waking home from school when a van drove passed, beeped at me and men yelled sexual comments at me. I can still feel the way tears welled in my eyes, the fear and humiliation was overbearing. I wanted to run and hide. But more than that, I was angry.

Who were these men to make me feel this way? What gave them the right to excerpt that control over how I felt? That small flicker of anger soon developed into a wildfire, unable to be contained.

Years later in March 2021 I was at a bus station, waiting for the bus when a man repeatedly whisper sexual comments in my ear. That familiar feeling of fear crept over me, along with disgust and repulsion. I looked around and for a split second felt reassured by the hustle and bustle around me. Surely someone would step in? Someone would see how close he was to me. How visibly disgusted I was?

No. I was on my own.

It was only when I got on my bus and the man started making gestures at me that I decided to take a picture of him. He then ran off. But I was proud of myself. By that point I’d experienced over 15 years of harassment - being wolf whistled, cat called, told to “smile” by passers by and on every occasion I’d simply laughed it off or pretended it hadn’t happen. This time was different. I had evidence and I vowed that this man would not be allowed to continue to harass me, or any other women so freely as he did.

I reported this incident. When I received no response it sparked a curiosity, what were the implications for public sexual harassment in Scotland?

Nothing. Nothing could be done to educate this man on his actions, to teach him not to speak to me or any other women and girls this way again.

And so started my journey into activism and campaigning for change began, a journey that started all those years before when those men were unable to drive passed me and leave me be.

In November 2021, I spoke to SNP conference about some of my experiences of sexual harassment, I have no shortage of examples to share, and was delighted that conference passed my motion overwhelmingly putting street harassment at the forefront of the Scottish Government’s agenda.

I then teamed up with Alice Jackson, a formidable, intelligent and unstoppable force of nature who has been nothing but a joy to work alongside. The Make PSH Illegal campaign was born. With the unwavering support of Paul McLennan MSP we share a dream, and vision, for a Scotland that is inclusive, fair and most importantly feminist.

Our campaign is not calling for men and boys to be locked up, to receive a fine or a criminal record, far from it. We know this does little to change behaviour. We are urging the Scottish government to take an education based approach. Let’s teach men and boys why these behaviours are not acceptable. Let’s start from the belief that they have the capabilities and the desire to treat women as equals, but that somewhere along the way society taught them that it was okay to treat us as less then. Because we know that public sexual harassment is the bottom of the pyramid. If it goes unchecked it can lead to stalking, physical harassment, sexual harassment, rape and murder. Let’s take firm and decisive action and criminalise public sexual harassment to create a societal shift in attitudes and behaviours that will benefit everyone.

Having a platform to channel my anger into activism is not a privilege I take lightly. So to anyone reading this I ask you this, please support our campaign, for the little girl that couldn’t even walk home from school without being harassed.


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