New legislation could make harassing women on the street a punishable offense by law.
Two months ago, 20-year-old Aixa Rizzo posted a video on YouTube. In the piece, Rizzo discusses her experiences of being catcalled and followed by a group of male electricians, and goes on to forcefully argue that harassment can lead to abuse. Rizzo’s story went viral, and now Argentina (both because of the video, and the work of many other organizers) is now considering making catcalling a crime.
The legislation has yet to pass, but it’s sparked a painful debate in a country where street harassment remains a problem for many female residents. A recent study by Universidad Abierta Interamericana revealed that 70 percent of women had recently experienced catcalling, 54 percent would cross the street when they heard comments from men, and 42 percent said they were afraid of walking alone in public. But some men from around the country have protested that their comments shouldn’t be taken so seriously. In 2014, the mayor of Buenos Aires told listeners on the radio that: “Women who say they don’t like it [catcalling] and are offended by it, I don’t believe it.”
Under the new law, women who faced harassment would have to report to a judge, who would then interview witnesses, and, if found guilty, then impose a penalty on the offender. Argentina would be the second country in Latin America to pass such a law, following Peru, who passed something similar earlier this year. And just last week, thousands of women across Argentina marched to protest domestic violence. While street harassment and domestic violence are two very separate issues, they share a common origin. It remains to be seen whether criminalizing catcalling is the solution, but either way: it’s good to know that governments, not just women on the streets, are willing to call it for what it is—a problem.
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