Kit Steinkellner
March 10, 2015 10:45 am

A country known for its ancient wonders just took a very modern step towards gender equality by passing a law forbidding street harassment. Fusion reports that catcallers, if convicted of their crimes, could spend up to 12 years in jail.

Peru’s congress passed the law on March 4, and it’s pretty serious. “Depending on the form of harassment, who it came from, and the age of those involved, the punishment for sexual harassment varies,” states Peru This Week. “The bill passed by Congress could potentially condemn an aggressor up to 12 years and considers public spaces to be streets, avenues, parks, squares, public transportation, etc. It explains that any act or threat impacting the freedom and dignity of movement and the right to physical and moral integrity of vulnerable peoples is considered harassment and may be punished.”

Street harassment was already considered a crime in Peru, as of last year, but this latest ruling defines the punishment for the perps.

Peru has been VERY interested in the topic of street harassment lately, in light of a country-wide campaign entitled “Sibale a tu madre” or, in English, “Catcall your mother.” The public service announcement, produced by the sporting goods company Everlast, is a three-minute-long “fake documentary” that features men being tricked into catcalling their own mothers.

According to the video, which has racked up over 5.5 million in Spanish and 6.5 million views with English subtitles,”7 out of 10 women are sexually harassed on the streets of Lima, Peru.” It seems that putting a mother’s face on the problem was, for many people, the same thing as putting a human face on the problem. And now the country has made solving the problem a priority.

And Peru isn’t alone in combatting street harassment. The organization Hollaback! published this past fall that shows a number of countries taking legal action against the problem. In Belgium, “there is a specific system in place for fining people that cause trouble in public places,” in Canada, “one-off incidents have led to prosecutions for criminal harassment,” and Croatia gives “specific legal protection to those who report harassment.”

Still, Peru’s new law stands above other laws, it’s tough and uncompromising, the consequences so severe (12 years in jail!) that it’s sure to deter many men from harassing women and making them feel unsafe in public places. We’ll be keeping tabs on how the law works in practice, and considering what it means as street harassment continues right here at home.

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