Edinburgh women's safety: Campaign urges men to change behaviour as 80 per cent of women experience harassment
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Four out of five women say they have experienced harassment, abuse, or violence while in a public space in Edinburgh.
And now a new campaign has been launched to get men to address their behaviour and attitudes towards women in public places. The #RespectHerSpace campaign will run for at least three weeks and will be seen across television, digital, and outdoor advertising. The campaign video is also available on YouTube.
It does not target criminality, but instead encourages men to make small changes to their behaviour to make people, especially women and girls, feel safer in Edinburgh. Suggestions include crossing the road instead of walking directly behind someone, as a way of reassuring women and girls who might otherwise feel unsafe.
The campaign was drawn up by Edinburgh council in partnership with Police Scotland, NHS Lothian, the University of Edinburgh, and Edinburgh Napier University. It was also supported by the Women’s Safety in Public Places Community Improvement Partnership and the Equally Safe Edinburgh Committee.
It follows two consultations between June 2022 and March 2023, which found between 73.9 per cent and 80.5 per cent of women reported having experienced harassment, abuse, or violence while in a public space in Edinburgh.
Depute council leader Mandy Watt said: “It’s so important that everyone feels safe whilst out and about in Edinburgh. Women and girls are often excluded from full and meaningful inclusion in public spaces due to worries about their safety, but men can be fundamental in changing this. We are asking men to make small but significant changes to their behaviour to make sure women and girls feel safe when accessing our public spaces.
“I’d encourage people to engage with this campaign and use it as an opportunity to have these important conversations with male family members, friends, and colleagues. We’re committed to making Edinburgh as safe, secure, and inclusive city as possible. Alongside our wider work, this campaign represents an important step in this process.”
The council highlighted other work it was doing which reinforced efforts to improve women’s safety, including £500,000 of funding for parks and open-space lighting and a new state of the art City Operations Centre with an enhanced focus on CCTV and public safety and security.
Detective Chief Inspector Adam Brown of Edinburgh’s public protection unit welcomed the campaign: “Improving the wellbeing of our communities is a key purpose of policing and I fully support this campaign, which demonstrates that small and considerate changes in our behaviour can make a difference in promoting feelings of safety and helping everybody to enjoy use of our public spaces equally.”
Dona Milne, director of public health at NHS Lothian, also endorsed the campaign. She said: “Research clearly demonstrates the issues faced by women and girls who report negative experiences whilst in a public space. These experiences can cause anxiety and distress, which contributes to poorer health and wellbeing.
“Increasing awareness of these issues, and of the small changes that can make a big difference, is a powerful tool towards enabling women and girls to feel safer when they are in public spaces across our city. Everyone has a right to feel safe and we would encourage people to engage with this campaign and take action to support women and girls to achieve that right.”
And Carolann Begbie, director of people and services at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “Sadly, harassment and gender-based violence are problems which affect all aspects of society. We want to ensure that it's not a part of university life. #RespectHerSpace demonstrates that small changes can have a significant impact on helping our city become a more inclusive place to study, work and live.”