Reporting to Authorities

12 December 2019

Girls' and young women's experiences of reporting harassment to authorities.

This report looks at the rates and experiences of reporting street harassment to authorities across five major cities (Lima, Madrid, Kampala, Delhi and Sydney.) 

Why is reporting to authorities often viewed as useless or even harmful, when in fact reporting is an important avenue for ending street harassment?

In this new analysis of the original Free to Be data, girls and young women share their stories and reflect on their experiences.

Our work in this space aims to shine a light on the issue so as to improve responses, increase reporting rates and ultimately end sexist behaviours and sexual harassment in public spaces to create safer cities for all.

About this report

Plan International’s crowd-mapping survey Free to Be enabled girls and young women to identify and share the location of public spaces that make them feel uneasy and scared or happy and safe, and detail the reasons why.

The survey was designed in collaboration with Crowdspot, Monash University’s XYX Lab and young women, in alignment with Plan International’s values on research and advocacy in the best interests of the child.

Unsafe in the City: The Everyday Experiences of Girls and Young Women, a report that painted a picture of the experiences of girls and young women globally related to sexist and sexual harassment in public places, was released in October 2018 alongside individual city reports outlining the findings from the five-city crowd mapping project.

Two reports have followed, including Unsafe on the Streets: Girls’ and Young Women’s Experiences of Group Harassment and this report, for which the data has been re-analysed to examine questions specifically about reporting sexist behaviours and sexual harassment to authorities.

Defining street harassment

Street harassment is unwelcome sexist behaviours and sexual harassment that occurs in public spaces, which could be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

These can be verbal and/or physical, and may include unwanted so-called ‘compliments’ (or ‘piropos’ in Lima and Madrid); catcalling, whistling or honking; intense staring/leering; surreptitious photography; propositioning; being verbally threatened with rape; physical intimidation such as being stalked, chased, followed, flashed and blocked; groping and other forms of sexual touch; and rape.

Who are the authorities relevant to street harassment?

When we use the term ‘authorities’ in this report we are referring to all levels of governments, the police, transport authorities, licensed venue staff, security and other groups who have responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of people in public spaces and transport.

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Protection from violence, Sexual and reproductive health and rights, Youth empowerment, Gender-based violence, Technology for development