The Protection from Sex-Based Harassment in Public Bill – which has received welcome Government
backing – is a rare opportunity to tackle public sexual harassment, to ensure justice for those who are
harassed, and to send a clear message that such behaviour is unacceptable.

The Bill works by using the "intentional harassment, alarm or distress" offence in Section 4A of the
Public Order Act to allow tougher sentences to be imposed if the perpetrator acted because of the
target’s perceived sex.

But as it stands, the Bill falls short of delivering on its potential, because:

  1. The bar for proving a perpetrator’s intention is currently set too high, risking
    insurmountable barriers to justice. Perpetrators will get away with sexually harassing people in
    public by claiming “it was just a joke/compliment”.
  2. The Bill does not explicitly define public sexual harassment, leaving coverage of such
    behaviour up to interpretation. We know that there are gaps in the law around this, with acts
    such as sexual propositioning, sexually explicit comments and comments of a derogatory
    nature currently not clearly covered by any legislation.

However, the Government is refusing to allocate time to strengthen the Bill, informing us that
any amendments made at the Lords stages risks it falling entirely. We know that it is within the
Government’s power to allow parliamentary time to consider any amendments, and are concerned
that this risks the Bill failing to meet its potential.


Read the full briefing here: Joint briefing – Protection from Sex-Based Harassment in Public Bill (June 2023)

You can read more information and the statement from Plan International UK on their website