Street Harassment

You have the right to feel safe and free from harassment, in all spaces, public and private.

Examples of street harassment:

  • Catcalls
  • Sexually explicit comments
  • Sexist or homophobic remarks
  • Flashing
  • Assault

Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that occurs between strangers in public places. It typically takes the form of actions or comments that are disrespectful, unwanted, threatening and/or harassing, and are motivated by gender, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Street harassment is considered a human rights issue by the U.N. and other global organizations because it limits the victims' ability to enter public places safely and comfortably.

What to do

How you should react to street harassment depends on the situation. Your safety is always the first priority, so if you feel the situation could be unsafe, you should walk away from the perpetrators without making eye contact or engaging them at all.

If you experience street harassment on campus, you can call Public Safety at (415) 422-4222 to report it. If it is an emergency and you fear for your safety, you should call 911 or call the Public Safety emergency line at (415) 422-2911.

Stop Street Harassment offers tips on dealing with harassers as well as other options for what to do before or after the harassment has already occurred.

A Human Rights Issue

2013 U.N. Commission on the Status of Women

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has, for the first time, included several clauses about the prevalent sexual harassment that women experience in public spaces around the world:

"The Commission expresses deep concern about violence against women and girls in public spaces, including sexual harassment, especially when it is being used to intimidate women and girls who are exercising any of their human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The document also calls upon nations to "[i]ncrease measures to protect women and girls from violence and harassment, including sexual harassment and bullying, in both public and private spaces, to address security and safety, through awareness-raising, involvement of local communities, crime prevention laws, policies, programmes such as the Safe Cities Initiative of the United Nations, improved urban planning, infrastructures, public transport and street lighting, and also through social and interactive media."

For more information on the 2013 U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, click here to view the full document.

Safe Cities Global Initiative

U.N. Women has also launched the Safe Cities Global Initiative in an effort to end street harassment. Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public spaces are an everyday occurrence for women and girls around the world—in urban and rural areas, in developed and developing countries.

UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative includes two main flagship programmes, including “Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls” and “Safe and Sustainable Cities for All.” For more information on the Safe Cities Global Initiative, visit U.N. Women.