Girls don shorts under school uniform skirts to avoid sexual harassment, MPs told

© Christian Hartmann
Girls as young as 12 wear shorts underneath their school skirts to prevent sexual harassment, which includes boys groping them in the playground and exposing their underwear, MPs have heard.

The “sexual harassment epidemic” has been “normalized” in UK schools and has reached “breaking point,” the Women and Equalities Committee was told on Tuesday.

According to the Guardian, one girl told the committee: “I have seen a couple of cases in my school when boys attempt to offend and humiliate girls.

“They use sexual phrases. They are really humiliating and can create psychological issues for the girl and make her feel unsafe and uncomfortable.”

Sophie Bennett from campaign group UK Feminista told MPs her organization “had heard from girls who tell us you don’t leave school as a girl without being called a slut, that to wear shorts under your skirt to prevent boys revealing your underwear in the playground is just normal behavior.”

Others told the committee some schools had told girls to “just wear trousers” to stop boys from groping them.

Durham University’s Dr Fiona Vera-Grey, whose research has centered on sexual violence against women, told the Independent: “We are at breaking point with this; there is a massive problem with sexual attacks on school property as well as a wider attitudinal problem that must be addressed.

“This is absolutely not meant to provoke a moral panic, but we are seeing something new here, with boys attempting to prove their masculinity to their peers by treating girls in an overtly inappropriate way and making derogatory comments.”

The revelations come as debate around what women are expected to wear in the workplace heats up, after a receptionist temp was sent home for refusing to wear high heels.

London-based Nicola Thorp, 27, launched a petition after being sent home from accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for refusing to wear shoes with a “2in to 4in heel.”

More than 142,000 people signed the petition, which calls for a change in the law and a ban on forcing women to wear heels in the workplace.

The petition has led to MPs inviting women, who have been made to wear high heels at work, to share their experiences as part of a wider inquiry.

On the parliamentary web forum, one woman said the current law is a “sexist policy.”

“I was shocked to learn that employers are still able to dictate what female staff should wear to work. I have four young granddaughters and find it hard to think that their careers might be dictated by their clothing choices, rather than their skills, qualifications and personal qualities,” she wrote.

Another submitter said: “It is almost as if female staff are being treated as if they are there for the amusement of men, or just to look attractive, which is blatant sexism.

“In 2016, I’m astonished that this was still the case,” he wrote.