• The San Juan Daily Star

Lawmaker draws fire with remarks about how provocatively dressed women are perceived

Rep. Lisie Burgos

By John McPhaul

Dignity Project Rep. Lisie Burgos said Monday that women should take care of how they dress in order to avoid street harassment.

“We really have to know that there is some kind of responsibility with us, women -- we can’t blame it all on a man,” Burgos said in a radio interview (Radio Isla 1320). “I think we also have to take care of ourselves so we don’t have that fear of going out. And if I believe that I can be harassed, I try not to encourage that. But each person can dress as she pleases, she can do what she pleases, that is definitely not the issue here.”

Burgos said she believes that women are responsible for how they dress.

“There could be, and I tell you because I am a lawyer by profession and I know of people who have been accused of lewd acts and when they come before the judge, the judge sees the victim and the judge is a thinking person and I have seen cases that have collapsed precisely because the person is dressed in front of the judge in a way that is striking, “ Burgos said.

“It could be taken into account,” she added.

“You have to keep in mind that when you appear in front of the judge, he/she is human and that [how you are dressed] could be taken into consideration,” the legislator continued. “It’s not like he’s going to make a decision based on that, but we’re talking about a human [the judge] who’s just as imperfect as us and who knows if he could make a decision based on that. I tell you because I, as a woman, can think that there are cases that have been resolved [as if] the person asked for it. And I believe that, although it shouldn’t be, it could happen. That is the reality.”

Burgos’ statements echoed a bill that is under consideration on street harassment..

Jackeline “Jackie” Rodríguez, the president of the Organization of Progressive Women of the New Progressive Party, condemned the statements.

“Every extreme is bad. I am a conservative by conviction, but I could not remain silent in the face of these comments that, apart from being totally insensitive and offensive, delay the centuries-long fight for women’s equality,” Rodríguez said in a written statement. “The fault for the harassment is not the woman’s. The fault for attacks against women is not ours, it is the aggressor’s. The person responsible is the one who does it, not the victim. We categorically censor those statements that discredit women.”

“Deplorable statements have no place in the Puerto Rico of the third decade of the 21st century,” the former lawmaker added. “I call on Representative Burgos to retract, apologize to all the women she offended today by saying that we are the reason they harass us, by our dress or how we act. The fault lies with the aggressor, Mrs. Burgos, not with the victim.”

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