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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Senate passes bill criminalizing street harassment

Sen. Ana Irma Rivera Lassén

By John McPhaul

Citizen Victory Movement Sen. Ana Irma Rivera Lassén on Thursday discussed the scope of her bill, approved in the Senate, which criminalizes street harassment.

“Street harassment is a very serious form of violence due to how normalized it is in our society, affecting mostly girls, adolescents and women, in all their diversities,” Rivera Lassén said in a written statement. “It violates their integrity, their dignity and freedom of movement. It ranges from unwanted compliments to persecution, causing discomfort, fear and insecurity. Given the alarming number of cases of gender violence, which is why even a state of emergency has been declared, the approval of this measure was urgent. Street harassment is not harmless and we must stop minimizing and justifying it.”

The senator said street harassment includes, but is not limited to, sexual comments, photographs and recordings made without consent, inappropriate physical contact, chasing or cornering, public masturbation, indecent exposure or obscene gestures. It also includes the practice of ‘upskirting’ which involves taking photos in public, up the skirt, commonly on public transport. The bill establishes as aggravating circumstances that the aggression is carried out on minors or in their presence, on people who are pregnant, on lactating people or on people 60 years of age or older.

“This bill also carries another message: that we must move toward restorative justice.” Rivera Lassén added. “The bill does not contemplate a prison sentence for committing the crime, but rather establishes fines, community work or education and awareness workshops. Street harassment is a macho behavior rooted in the patriarchal society in which we live, so we need a real change in thinking and behavior. That is why we do not seek to penalize, but rather to educate to prevent this type of violence from continuing to reproduce and to promote safer spaces for all people, especially women and feminized bodies.”

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