Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado signed on Monday the "Law Against Street Sexual Harassment" after the Legislative Assembly approved it.
Costa Rican Congress To Pass Sexual Harassment Bill
"It is a great regulatory change that helps us to protect mainly women so that they can travel free from sexual harassment so that they feel safe and free," President Alvarado said.
The law punishes offenders who record a video with sexual connotations of another person with a sentence of between 10 months to one year in prison. If that audiovisual material is distributed to others, then the penalty extends up to 10 years.
"We signed the Law Against Street Sexual Harassment. This initiative, built by many women, will guarantee the right of all people to travel through public spaces free of sexual harassment, establishing measures to prevent and punish this form of violence."
The legislation establishes a six-months jail sentence for anyone who masturbates or shows his genitals in public, and it also includes harassment in public spaces and public transportation made through words, noises, whistles, groans, and gestures to a person without their permission.
Furthermore, chasing or cornering someone with sexual intentions will be punished with eight months up to one year in prison.
The enacting of the law is a milestone for social organizations and feminists groups that had been pushing for it since 2015. That year alone, the Women's National Institute reported 7.321 attacks, and the two following years, the street harassment accusations surpassed 7.000.
According to prior legislations, harassment was not legally considered a crime, and offenders and re-offenders would receive a punishment of five to 30 days.
"With this signature, we begin to settle the historical debt of the State and society with the vast majority of women who have suffered this form of violence in public spaces since we were girls," explained Patricia Mora, Minister of the Status of Women.