STIB, the Brussels public transport operator, and Plan International, an NGO, yesterday launched an awareness campaign against sexual harassment in the public space.
“Do you scream when you witness harassment taking place? It’s a good way to get everyone’s eyes focussed on the harasser,” says one of the posters specially produced for the campaign. Another poster reads: “Do you hide behind your mobile phone when you witness harassment taking place? Report any inappropriate behaviour.”
According to Plan International, 60% of women in Belgium say they have been victims of sexual harassment on the street or on public transport at some point in their lives – a figure which Plan International has deemed “unacceptable”.
Harassment can take many different forms. Non-physical forms can include things like making animal noises, whistling, lewd comments, and insults. Non-verbal types of harassment can include stalking, making sexual gestures, insistent or prolonged staring, and taking “stolen” photos (i.e. without the consent of the person being photographed). Physical forms of harassment, on the other hand, can include things like pinching, touching, or even, in the worst cases, rape.
A booklet containing useful tips, figures and information for victims and witnesses of harassment has been published and will be distributed on the Brussels transport network over the next few weeks. STIB has also organised “sensitisation workshops” across various schools in Belgium, to increase awareness of the various forms and overall seriousness of sexual harassment.
Furthermore, ‘sketches’ (i.e. faked scenes involving actors) of sexual harassment will be performed across various metro stations over the coming weeks. “Indirectly, the campaign is also aimed at harassers, by making them understand that their victim is not alone, that she is supported by all the other people around her,” said STIB in a statement.