More than a third of girls say they have been sexually harassed at school, charity survey finds

Verity Bowman
More than a third of girls say they have been sexually harassed at school - PA

More than a third of girls say they have been sexually harassed at school, a charity survey has found, compared to just six per cent of their male classmates.

Two thirds of girls have been sexually harassed in public, with thousands across the UK feeling unsafe in public and held back by sexism in schools. 

Over half of these girls faced sexual harassment while dressed in their school uniform, a Plan International UK survey of more than 1,000 girls and young women aged 14-21 has revealed. 

Among the issues raised in the State of Girls' Rights in the UK 2020 report were feeling unsafe in public, hampered sexual harassment in the classroom and believing that their opinions are not heard.

Girls said they did not feel safe on their own as they made their way through the places they live and, and many tried to find ways to avoid being physically and verbally harassed. 

A total of 60 per cent of girls felt that males are treated better than females in the UK, and 57 per cent said they had been in a situation where they believe they would have got better treatment if they were a boy.

Despite the rise of young female campaigners such as climate activist Greta Thunberg, many girls said they were not being listened to.

They spoke of feeling unheard on issues like Brexit, being bullied for identifying as feminists, and are "worryingly put off politics" by the toxic abuse received by prominent female MPs, the study found.

Plan International UK's chief executive Rose Caldwell described it as "extremely saddening but not surprising" that girls still feel disempowered, while the NSPCC said "far too many" girls are being harassed and work needs to start in primary schools to help society protect them from abuse.

Ms Caldwell said: "If adolescent girls are feeling under-valued, unheard and under-represented in public life, we as a society are letting them down. This simply cannot continue. The findings in this report should serve as a wake-up call for all politicians and leaders.”