Lausanne takes action against street harassment

With a new public awareness campaign, the Swiss city of Lausanne has set out to become a pioneer in the battle against street harassment. 

Lara Bullens
Lara Bullens NewsMavens, Western Europe
Lausanne takes action against street harassment - NewsMavens
Commuter group. Matthew Henry/Burst

Why this story matters:

A satiric video -- in which a group of people visit the fictional Museum of Street Harassment-- is Lausanne's first city-wide effort to end street harassment and make public spaces safer. 

The awareness campaign has cost 50,000 Swiss francs, showing the city is prepared to invest in tackling the issue.

However, across Europe efforts to end street harassment have proved mostly ineffective so far. 

Many women doubt that raising awareness will be sufficient to create a cultural shift. 

Handing out fines for street harassment is also a welcome initiative, but enforcing these legislations has proven impractical, since in most cases, police officers have to directly witness the event.

Many of these measures come off as knee-jerk political moves that could even backfire. Handing out fines creates a need for more police presence. Awareness campaigns seldom trickle down to the circles where they are most needed. 

Why not start at the root of the problem: education?

Details from the story:

  • As of this year, in Switzerland police officers, bar keepers, bus drivers and security guards will be able to undergo training for better interventions.
  • From 2020 onwards, municipal police officers will be more present in schools to prevent street harassment from occurring there.
  • The city also has plans to launch an online database in which people can (anonymously) report street harassment incidents. 
  • A study in 2016 found that 72% of women in Lausanne have experience street harassment (with sexual implications) in public spaces. 
  • In France, gender equality minister Marlène Schiappa has pushed for street harassment fines. Police officers can hand out on-the-spot fines of up to 90 euros.
  • In 2014, Belgium passed a law against street harassment, in which a perpetrator can receive a prison sentence of up to one year or get a 1,000 euro fine.
  • Portugal criminalized street harassment in 2016, making it punishable with up to three years in prison for harassing a female younger than 14 years old.
  • In 2017, Germany ruled that anyone who physically touches another person publicly in a sexual manner can get a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine. 
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