A couple of years ago, a video surfaced of a woman walking 10 hours on the streets of New York in an experiment to determine how bad the street harassment really was for women.
The experiment was conducted by Hollaback, an anti-street harassment advocacy group, and edited into a two-minute public service announcement to show a perspective that has been grossly overlooked.
10 hours, 108 harrassments, and 48 million youtube views later, guinea pig and actress Shoshana B. Roberts, was able to shed light on an epidemic that is actually a lot more troubling than it appears.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three women has experienced what they call “noncontact unwanted sexual experiences,” which include street harassment.
Another recent study by a group called Stop Street Harassment found two-thirds of women out of 2,000 polled nationally had experienced street harassment. Twenty-three percent had been touched by their harasser, and 20 percent followed.
Since the video and national discussion not much has changed, until now.
In a unanimous vote, the city of Buenos Aires passed a vote making public sexual harassment illegal, in hopes of quelling the rate of gender-based violence, including street harassment.
Santarosa Cobos, who has been spearheading the lobbying to see this done, is a victim of street harassment herself. Her organization, Acción Respeto, much like Hollaback, was established to combat cases just like hers and Roberts, making this a big win.
What makes this law unique is that it takes both a punitive and educational approach. It creates an easy way for women to report street harassment as a crime and requires police to take the situation seriously.
Cat-callers found guilty can be charged with fines or court-mandated public service. The legislation also creates educational campaigns within the health, education, and transportation ministries that serve as a learning mechanism for Argentines which teach that any comment or interaction in the street still requires a woman’s consent.
In addition, these programs will lay out how to spot street harassment as well as how to best intervene on a victim’s behalf.
Now, all we need is States in the U.S. to start pushing for the same type of legislation. As self-proclaimed world leaders in economics and social affairs, Argentina’s passing of this bill just shows the type of progress needed to properly ensure the safety of our women.
With this law setting a precedent, it will be interesting to see what kind of push constituents will have on local government to see this happen in the U.S.