LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than half of girls in British schools and colleges have faced sexual harassment, according to a new report on Tuesday that called for sex education to be provided for all children in primary and secondary school.
A parliamentary committee report said sexual bullying had become an expected part of girls' everyday lives. The report found evidence that almost a third of 16 to 18-year-olds had experienced unwanted sexual touching at school.
"Surely no one who reads or hears these striking statistics today could now deny how serious ... this problem is," Katie Russell of Rape Crisis, a charity which works with survivors of sexual abuse, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Young people told the committee that complaints of sexual harassment would often be forgotten, with no action taken.
Maria Miller, the lawmaker who chaired the committee, said the report found teachers often accepted sexual harassment as "just banter".
Nearly three quarters of 16-18 year old students said they heard terms such as "slut" used towards girls on a regular basis.
Miller, from the ruling Conservative party, criticized Britain's education department for having no "no coherent plan" to tackle the problem.
Under the current UK curriculum, sexual health education is compulsory at secondary school but teaching pupils about relationships and sexual consent is not.
A government spokesperson said the department would consider the report's recommendations.
"Schools should be safe places and fortunately crime is rare, but no young person should suffer harassment or violence," the spokesperson said.
(Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, traficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)