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Sexual Harassment

'Some people say 'it's just what lads do'. But it's not. It makes women feel insecure and threatened'

A new poster initiative from Dublin City Council is acting on a 2015 report that highlighted “relentless examples” of sexist behaviour.

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A NEW POSTER campaign in Dublin is just one measure needed to ensure that women and girls “enjoy a safe, secure freedom of movement through the city”, according to a report detailing the prevalent of sexism and sexual harassment on the capital’s streets.

The report was commissioned by Dublin City Council, published in September 2015, on the prevalence of sexism and sexually aggressive behaviour on the city’s streets.

Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan told “Personally, I was a little bit shocked about what was being said.”

One of the report’s recommendations included the development of “public awareness campaigns expressing zero tolerance of sexual harassment and other forms of sexal violence against women and girls in public space”.

The posters – which bear the message “a sexist remark is not a compliment” – have been put up by Dublin City Council in the last few weeks as part of its Safe City programme.

sexist remark Dublin City Council Dublin City Council

The council joined the UN Women Safe Cities Global Programme in 2013, as one of 20 cities aiming to prevent and reduce sexual harassment against women and girls.

To gauge how much women would deal with sexist behaviours, the researchers conducted a women’s safety audit.

This involved a group of women meeting up at Heuston Station on a Friday morning, breaking up into groups of six. One group walked from the station eastwards to Smithfield. Another got the Luas to the Abbey Street stop and walked westwards towards Smithfield.

One of those participants was Boylan who, as a public representative, was invited to take part.

She said: “We were broken into groups, and something was said to each group by the time we all met up again.”

The researchers highlight that the layout of a road can affect the unease that women can feel on Dublin’s streets.

The report said: “The following statements which were made by women participating in the safety audit encapsulate the impact of the vulnerability can feel as they walk through this area both by day and by night:

‘It is the unimaginable that you fear.’ ‘I sprint through here every night.’ ‘I hold my breath and just run as fast as I can.’ ‘If I am dragged in there, I’ll never be seen.’

It goes on to describe “relentless examples” which make it “clear this is a regular feature of women’s lives”.

It said: “It emerged again during the general discussion among the group participating in the safety audit, who described men groping or rubbing up against them on crowded public transport and an example of a man flashing at a women on a street on the research site.”

Boylan said she had participated in the study, but had also been subject to the kind of sexist behaviour detailed by the other participants before.

“It’s happened to me walking from place to place,” she said. “I’ve had catcalls and whistles at me, that kind of thing.

I’d describe myself as a confident woman, but when that happens I would just kind of drop my shoulders and curl up into a ball as I walked by. It makes me feel so uncomfortable.

Particularly along the route from Heuston Station to Abbey Street, the report found many areas that made women feel uneasy, particularly at night.

The report said that there are “many badly lit laneways along the research site which women feel very uncomfortable walking past”.

“The lack of safety is exacerbated by a lack of any garda presence at night,” it said.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations to make the streets safer for women, and reduce incidences of sexism in public areas across the city.

It said: “A public media campaign highlighting the unacceptability of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public space is important for girls, women, boys and men.”

Boylan said that there is still the perception among small pockets of society that this kind of behaviour is still acceptable.

“Some people just say ‘it’s what lads do’. They don’t stop and realise ‘what if that was my wife, my sister etc.’ and that’s not on,” she said.

It makes women feel ogled, feel insecure and feel threatened. It’s certainly not all men. It really isn’t. But it shouldn’t happen in this day and age.

The councillor added that she hoped the signs made people take notice and re-evaluate their behaviour. “They might read and say ‘janey’, that’s actually not on,” she said.

In a comment to, a Dublin City Council spokesperson said that the council had taken on board the recommendations made in the report and was looking at developing public awareness campaigns and implement educational programmes as a result.

The report recommends educational programmes for the public and service providers, in particular An Garda Síochana,

They said that the decision to join the UN initiative was “not because Dublin is an unsafe city but because the city wants to share and learn from knowledge in other cities”.

They also said that the council wants to “proactively strengthen efforts to prevent sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women and girls in public spaces”.

Boylan added: “That’s what we want. We want to make sure Dublin is safe. There may be certain areas where people feel unsafe.

There’s a lot we can do to change that.

Read: ‘A sexist remark is not a compliment’: New poster initiative hits streets of Dublin

Read: ‘One of the most gender blind people I’ve ever worked with’: Ciara Kelly strongly defends George Hook

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