As many as one in three schoolgirls report being sexually harassed when out in their school uniforms, a UK-based children's charity said on Monday.
A survey of 1,004 girls aged between 14 and 21 conducted by Plan International UK found that 35 per cent had received unwanted sexual attention or contact, including being groped, stared at, cat-called and wolf-whistled.
More than a third of the girls questioned said they had been sexually harassed while travelling to or from school.
"It is shocking and deeply concerning that girls, many of whom are clearly of school age because they are in uniform, are being targeted and sexually harassed by perpetrators in the street," said Tanya Barron, chief executive at Plan International UK.
"It's simply not acceptable that girls as young as 12 are being wolf-whistled at in public, touched against their will, stared at or even followed. This disgraceful behaviour needs to be called out and stopped," she said.
The poll by Plan International UK also found that one in seven of the girls had been followed and 8 per cent said they had been filmed or photographed by a stranger without their permission or had someone take a photo up their school skirt. One in eight of those were aged 12 or younger when they experienced this for the first time.
The report, titled 'Street harassment: It's not ok', also features stories from several young women speaking of their experiences on the streets of Britain.
"The inaction of people who witnessed these incidents often made these feelings worse, sending a message that it was something girls just had to accept. And when adults were told what had happened, their reactions often made girls feel like they were being blamed," the report notes.
"The girls we spoke to were clear that they want this behaviour to stop and there is hope that what is considered by many to be a normal part of being a girl may change," it adds.
The report makes a series of recommendations to the general public as well as the government to help tackle the issue, calling on bystanders to question such behaviour as they witness it in progress.
"Even the smallest action from people who witness harassment can be a tool for change, and we need to see training delivered to support this," it said.
The charity is also calling on the UK government to recognise street harassment as a type of "gender-based violence" with appropriate punishments to be put in place.
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