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News > Latin America

Street Harassment to Become a Crime in Argentina

  • In Argentina, activists argue that street harassment is often a prelude to rape.

    In Argentina, activists argue that street harassment is often a prelude to rape. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 September 2017

Senators are now expected to discuss the bill.

Argentina's Lower House has approved a bill criminalizing street harassment against women.

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The bill also seeks to establish a free hotline to provide support for victims of street harassment.

The measure was approved in the beginning of a special session and without debate. Senators are now expected to discuss the bill.

The new bill will incorporate street harassment in the Penal Code as a type of “violence against women in the public space.”

Street harassment — often euphemistically referred to as "catcalling" — is defined as “harassment carried out against women by one or more people, in public spaces like public transports or malls, through behaviors or words, with sexual connotation, affecting or harming the dignity, integrity, liberty, freedom of circulation, or generating a hostile or offensive environment.”

The bill also encourages police officers to protect women victims of street harassment.

Activists have pointed to the close relationship between sexual harassment of women on the street and rape.

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In 2015, Aixa Rizzo, a prominent activist of the anti-femicide movement Ni Una Menos, or “Not One Less,” drew attention to the issue in a YouTube video titled "From Catcalling to Rape."

The activist posted the viral video shortly after using pepper spray to escape an attempted rape by a group of workers near her home who used to catcall to her on a daily basis.

In France, a similar initiative to criminalize street harassment was rejected by feminist groups who claimed that criminalizing street harassment would give police officers a pretext to criminalize young men of immigrant origins.

In recent months, systematical racial profiling and police killings of this population have been at the center of the national debate.

In Argentina, one woman is killed every 30 hours. Since 2008, almost 3,000 women have been killed, according to the organization Casa del Encuentro.

Femicide refers to the murder of a woman by a man who considers her his property and believes he has the right to her life or death. Since 2012, it has been recognized as a specific case of homicide in Argentina's criminal code system and subject to heavier prison sentences.

But despite the inclusion of "femicide" in the criminal code, only one man has ever been sentenced for femicide charges. Feminist groups still considered this a "victory" as the sentence came only 15 months after the legal modification.

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