There is no standardized definition for street harassment (yet). Our working definition (updated March 2015) is:
Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault, and rape.
Of course, people are also harassed because of factors like their race, nationality, religion, disability, or class. Some people are harassed for multiple reasons within a single harassment incident. Harassment is about power and control and it is often a manifestation of societal discrimination like sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, classism, ableism and racism. No form of harassment is ever okay; everyone should be treated with respect, dignity, and empathy.
Street harassment is a human rights issue because it limits harassed persons’ ability to be in public, especially women’s.
While street harassment is most frequent for teenagers and women in their 20s, the chance of it happening never goes away and women in their 60s have shared stories.