These British youngsters want to outlaw pornography, sex shops, and school uniforms.


These British youngsters want to outlaw pornography, sex shops, and school uniforms.


It was Friday lunchtime at a high school in Sandbach, England, and a group of kids was having a depressing conversation about how they had been sexually harassed while traveling to school.

"We were riding a public bus, as I recall. The bus driver also permitted us to remove our tights if we so desired. He claimed he liked it better when we had the previous school uniform and shorter skirts. I was 11, "said Alice, who is currently in grade 11.

"Once, when I was returning home wearing my school uniform, a man in his thirties approached me and threatened to rape me as he passed. It was truly horrible, "Hannah, a fellow 11-year-old, stated.

The feminism club at Sandbach High School, which is south of Manchester, is made up of Hannah and Alice, whose names have been changed, and their ages have been omitted at the request of their school.

The British government has responded to the petition.

The group is requesting that the British government outlaw the sale of school uniforms in costume and sex stores and their use in pornographic videos.

When Alice and I were wearing our school uniforms and walking to and from school or using public transportation, we experienced catcalling, sexual harassment, and honking, she added. "And we kind of questioned why, and why individuals feel so entitled to, like, harass schoolgirls in a sexual manner and make us feel so uneasy."

The group's petition has now gathered more than 13,400 signatures, surpassing the threshold for a response from the government. But despite the commotion caused by the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the complete reorganization of the Conservative Party, no response was received within the customary 14 days.

They've written to lawmakers as well, but thus far, they've only gotten James Barber, the school's local councilor, to publicly endorse them.

Sarah Maile, a teacher, founded the feminist organization in 2012. Every year, Maile advises her pupils to choose a women's rights issue to concentrate on, such as female genital mutilation or human trafficking. However, the group's attention this year is notably local.

Emma, a Sandbach Grade 9 student, stated, "I've encountered individuals coming over to me and asking me explicit questions about virginity, and when I've responded, 'No,' they've called me a bitch."

When a person is no longer in a uniform, harassment decreases: students

More than 1,000 women and girls between the ages of 14 and 21 participated in a Plan International U.K. campaign organization's 2018 online survey, which found that more than one-third of the respondents had experienced sexual harassment while wearing school uniforms.

Up until the age of 16, the vast majority of British schools mandate that students wear a uniform.

Hannah, an older student, no longer wears a uniform and claims that since she started coming to school in her own clothes, there has been a "reduction in harassment."

Research by Plan International U.K. indicated that "girls believed that being in school uniform made them a particular target," which is consistent with Hannah's experience.

According to researcher and author Kate Stephenson of a Cultural History of School Uniform, uniforms have existed in Britain since the 16th century for a variety of purposes, from giving orphans warm clothing to denoting rank at public institutions like Eton College.

Since the 19th century, modern uniforms have been used in schools with the goal of fostering a sense of equality among pupils from various socioeconomic backgrounds.

In order to ensure that everyone seems the same, Stephenson said, "it's about sort of deleting those elements that imply that some children have more money than others."

Students argue that prohibiting genuine uniforms is victim-blaming.

The Sandbach High School campaigners claim they have been asked often if doing away with uniforms altogether will help the matter. That way of thinking, according to the kids, is victim-blaming.

We are children, and we're telling you that we feel unsafe and uncomfortable because we're being so overtly sexualized through these uniforms; I think it's really worth mentioning, Alice added.

According to Maile, the goal of focusing on sex stores is not to dictate to consenting adults what they can and cannot do in the bedroom but rather to draw attention to the improper manner the costumes are advertised.

It's the really particular terminology used to describe these costumes—"sexy schoolgirl lingerie"—like the simple fact that that is how the product is described, Maile explained.

However, Keith Miller of the London sex parlor Love-Init doesn't think that sex parlors or their patrons are to blame for the harassment.

Miller remarked I think that depends on the individual. Stopping items from being sold in stores won't, in my opinion, halt the comments. Someone will use the such method of communication with a schoolgirl if they so choose."

According to Stephenson, the St. Trinian's comic strips from the 1940s and 1950s marked the beginning of the sexualization of school uniforms. She claimed that cartoonist Ronald Searle depicted the older pupils in a "raunchier school uniform," and that those characters made use of their sexuality.

We can see issues with it now, sort of 70 years later, according to Stephenson. But at the time, it was creating new role models for femininity and rewriting it.

According to Stephenson, adults today frequently dress up in their school uniforms as costumes to revisit a difficult time in their lives and replace unpleasant memories with pleasant ones.

It is definitely sexualizing teenagers.

She asserted that the majority of folks see the uniforms worn by students as fundamentally different from those worn by sex shops.

The majority of people, according to Stephenson, "would be disgusted by the concept that it was sexualizing [the] actual school uniform." "The issue is that it clearly sexualizes kids, especially with things like pornography,"

The student's effort comes in the wake of repeated requests from advocacy organizations for the UK to criminalize street harassment.

One of these organizations, Our Streets Now, was founded as a result of abuse suffered by Gemma Tutton, one of its co-founders. Gemma had been the target of public sexual harassment since she was in primary school when she and her sister Maya founded the organization at the age of 14.

The grassroots advocacy group joined forces with Plan International U.K. in March 2021 to create a model bill and urge the government to outlaw public sexual harassment.

Although the British Home Secretary Priti Patel initially appeared in favor of enacting a new law in 2021, Nimco Ali, the government's independent adviser on the matter, has subsequently claimed her efforts to do so had encountered "pushback" and implied that Johnson had not entirely backed it.

Even if the school uniform ban is not approved, the Sandbach High School campaigners say they are happy to have started a discussion on the sexualization of youngsters.

Hannah stated, when we're wearing [a uniform], we're just trying to get an education—and that's our basic human right. So, it is awful to be abused while doing that.

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