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City leaders have confirmed their commitment tackle bias and discrimination ahead of International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8 March.

International Women’s Day is a global event celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year’s theme calls on all people – no matter how they identify – to speak out against bias, discrimination and stereotyping.

The council is also using International Women’s Day as a chance to speak out about harassment and violence faced by women and girls in the city. 80 per cent of reported sexual offences in Portsmouth have a female victim. 93 recorded offences against women and girls (in 2020) occurred in public places with most offences committed against women under 24 years old.

Cllr Attwell, Cabinet Member for Communities and Central Services, Portsmouth City Council, said: “Portsmouth is wonderfully diverse and welcoming, and we seek to celebrate everyone who calls this city their home – but we recognise that women often face bias and discrimination. Whether deliberate or unconscious, this can hold women back from achieving their full potential. Damaging attitudes can ultimately lead to serious crimes and violent behaviour towards women and girls, so it’s vital we stand together as a community on this issue. I’m pleased to stand in solidarity with my colleagues to pledge to act when I see this type of behaviour, and encourage local people and businesses to do the same.”

Supported by funding from the Home Office and the Hampshire Police Crime Commissioner, Portsmouth City Council, with Isle of Wight Council, is rolling out several schemes to raise awareness of violence against women and girls in the community, show how we can all help address damaging attitudes and behaviours, and support people who have experienced harassment and sexual violence.

  • The council is working with Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service (PARCS), Pompey Safe Spaces and City of Sanctuary to create a network of businesses and venues across the city and island where staff are trained to look out for abusive behaviour and support those who have experienced harassment or sexual violence
  • People who work with the public during the evenings and at night, such as bar staff and taxi drivers, are being invited to free training sessions to learn how bystanders can help combat crime
  • New CCTV and lighting are being installed at Portsbridge Underpass in Cosham and Belmont Path in Somerstown where community artwork is also being unveiled
  • Schools are being offered sessions on how to be a positive bystander and call out damaging attitudes
  • The council is working with PARCS to establish a new helpline that people can text or call to help map places that feel unsafe or to seek support if they’ve experienced sexual or hate-based abuse.

Cllr Suzy Horton, Deputy Leader at Portsmouth City Council, said: “Most women have experienced some form of harassment or abuse in public places, from unwanted attention and comments, to being touched, followed or not listened to when they say no. It’s time to take a stand and stop letting others get away with even so-called ‘trivial’ bad behaviour and help stop abuse.

“If you have experienced harassment or sexual violence, there is help and support for you in Portsmouth – you’re not alone. We can all play a part in supporting women and girls – even small acts of understanding or an offer of support to a friend, neighbour or stranger can go a long way.”

If you have experienced harassment, sexual violence or abuse help and support is available locally:

  • Local support is available for women and girls affected by sexual violence through Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling (PARCS): www.parcs.org.uk
  • You can report a crime to the police at: www.hampshire.police.uk/
  • You can use the pilot service StreetSafe to anonymously tell the police about public places where you have felt or feel unsafe
  • If you or someone else are in immediate danger or you need support right away, call 999.

There are also lots of ways people can show their support this International Women’s Day:

  • Strike the International Women’s Day 2022 pose – crossing both arms as an X – and share on social media with the hashtag #BreakTheBias.
  • Share the commitment to call out gender bias – the council will share a selection of contributions through Instagram Stories on the day itself.
  • Learn more about the forms abuse can take, the impact of abuse and how you can take a positive stance against violence and harassment. Visit enough.campaign.gov.uk
  • Download #BreakTheBias selfie posters from the International Women’s Day website – use the #IWDPortsmouth hashtag and the council will share a selection of images on 8 March.
  • Use the hashtags #BreakTheBias, #IWD2022 and #IWDPortsmouth to join in the conversations around International Women’s Day.

Full details of the themes and how people can get involved can be found at www.portsmouth.gov.uk/IWD2022