Making a positive step forward for women’s rights, Peru passed a law late Wednesday night March 4th condemning street harassment with a conviction of up to 12 years in prison depending on the form of harassment, who enacted it, and the ages of the people involved. The bill considers streets, avenues, parks, squares, public transportation, etc. to be public spaces and under the auspices of this new law.
Lima is notorious for its transportation system where women are subjected to massive amounts of sexual harassment. The new bill explains that any threat or act that impinges upon the freedom and dignity of movement, the right to physical integrity, and the right to moral integrity of susceptible people will be punishable under the new law.
Peru has fought to eliminate sexual harassment for years in public spaces via various campaigns that address the issue. Miraflores began such a campaign two years ago called “Miraflores, free from street harassment. (“Miraflores libre de acoso sexual callejero”). Acting as a precedent to the most recent bill, last year Peru made street harassment a crime in their fight to protect women and children in public spaces. Most recently the sporting company Everlast joined up with the coach of Peru’s female volleyball team, Natalia Málaga, to create a comedic video about cat-callers who find out to their chagrin that their would-be victims are actually their mothers in disguise.
While the new bill is a step in the right direction, it will be interesting to see how well or effectively it is enforced. With the current national debate in the U.S. over rape cases, this bill may provoke similar responses in Peru amongst conservative segments of society that are more likely to blame the woman for provoking the harassment or to disbelieve any claims she makes about an incident that often has little concrete proof.