The Government plans to assess Bermuda’s existing laws like catcalling.
Updating MPs on the work being planned, the Minister of National Security, Michael Weeks noted that police have never received a call reporting street harassment.
While noting that “street harassment is not harmless”, he said: “It can be an uncomfortable, frightening and even traumatic experience, particularly for young women. However traumatising it may be, it is seldom officially reported to the appropriate authorities.
“The Bermuda Police Service report that although they are aware of incidences of street harassment, there has never been a service call to them related to street harassment.
“I would like to suggest that our collective community’s indifference to street harassment over the years has made it unlikely that victims of street harassment will seek the help of the police.
“The lack of reporting is not an indication of the seriousness of this matter but, rather, it reflects the public’s perception that these incidents cannot be addressed through the judicial system. Many people rationalise that street harassment and catcalling is ‘not as serious’ as crimes such as sexual assault, so they do not bother with making a report.
“This is neither acceptable nor sustainable in a decent society.”
A series of presentations on the issue of street harassment were produced through Family Centre’s Youth Leadership Academy.
He said his ministry would partner with Family Centre to “advance initiatives to address street harassment in Bermuda”.
Moving forward, he said: “The Government is to commence a legislative review to determine if existing laws can be improved, which will include examining laws in other countries.
“In December 2022, a Private Members Bill was introduced in the United Kingdom House of Commons with the broad support of the Government. The new legislation criminalises acts including catcalling and making offensive gestures, walking too closely behind someone at night, blocking someone’s path and driving slowly next to pedestrians.
“The Right Honourable Greg Clark, the sponsor of the Bill, said the Bill seeks to reinforce a change in the culture that establishes that it is completely unacceptable to abuse women in the streets.”
The Minister continued: “The Government and the Ministry of National Security agree with this sentiment. If our legislative review identifies areas for strengthening the provisions for offences against street harassment, we shall robustly pursue the necessary amendments.”
A publicity campaign to highlight existing laws and encourage the reporting of such incidents.