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  • Women march for their rights in the capital San Juan on 2019

    Women march for their rights in the capital San Juan on 2019 | Photo: EFE/ Jeffrey Arguedas

Published 10 June 2020
Opinion

The legislation would prescribe fines or prison time for people committing acts of sexual harassment in public

The "Law Against Street Sexual Harassment" was approved during the first session on the subject by Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly Tuesday.

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After its submission on 2017 by National Assembly Women`s Committee, 49 deputies with no opposition, backed the bill that aims to prevent violent and particularly sexual harassment on the streets.

The legislation makes clear that the priority of the Costa Rican State is to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against people assaulted by street sexual harassment, "with special emphasis on the comprehensive protection of girls, adolescents, women, and other historically vulnerable populations," as it reads on the bill that will be discussed again on June 11, 2020, before turning into a law.

Sexual harassment, as defined in the document, will be understood in the way of unwanted acts with a sexual connotation carried out in public spaces and that harms the victim.

"We celebrate the approval of the first debate on the law project 20.299 against sexual harassment on the streets. We hope for definite approval of the project as a recognition of women`s rights to live harassment-free". 
 

The sanctions penalize up to a year of prison time for exhibitionism or public masturbation; up to 18 months in prison for producing audiovisual content with sexual connotations without consent, and sexual harassment in public spaces and public transportation made through words, noises, whistles, groans and gestures to a person without his permission, among other behaviors.

Sexual harassment has become an increasing problem in the country over the years. A national survey on sexual and reproductive health carried by the University of Costa Rica back in 2010, showed that sexual harassment was the main form of violence experienced by women, as 80 out of 100 had suffered some form of harassment in the workplace.

Another research by the National Institute for Women in 2015, revealed that 70% of Costa Rican women surveyed had faced some form of sexual harassment in public spaces.

Other figures shared by the country’s judicial system point that street sexual harassment generates some 7,000 complaints in Costa Rican courts annually.

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