COUNCILLORS have pledged their backing to a campaign which aims to make street harassment a crime.

At a virtual meeting of Full Council, Labour secured support for a motion calling on Cheshire West and Chester to back Our Streets Now, which aims to make street harassment a specific offence.

The authority’s Labour group is also proposing a campaign working with local schools to improve education about harassment and implement policies to tackle it.

Street harassment is already illegal in Belgium, France and Portugal, while a recent Ofsted report said sexual harassment had become ‘normalised’ in schools, with nine out of 10 girls having experienced sexist name calling or been sent explicit videos or pictures.

Councillor Nicole Meardon, who proposed the motion, said: “I can’t count the number of times I faced sexual harassment in a public space in my life, particularly when I was a teenager and young woman and I remember hating it, feeling so ashamed and embarrassed, but just accepting it.

"I shouldn’t have accepted it and society as whole shouldn’t have accepted it, and I certainly don’t want the younger generation to have to put up with it.”

The motion also recognised the work of former Cheshire West Member of the National Youth Parliament, Jess Leigh, and the work of other young women who have set up the Our Streets Now campaign. It follows the murder of Sarah Everard, and the recent Ofsted report on harassment in schools.

Cllr Meardon added: “The fact Sarah Everard could just be simply walking home taking precautions for her personal safety but still victim to such a horrendous crime was shocking.

“No matter how old we are, women maintain that deep-seated concern that no matter what we do or don’t do, we are at risk.“

The Our Streets Now campaign details many stories from girls as young as 11 talking about their experiences of street harassment.

Cllr Meardon added: “I believe we need every young person to be taught about public sexual harassment, its root causes and its impacts in school. We need to raise a generation who are equipped to challenge harassment, oppression and prejudice.”