The first mandatory legal mediation in the first ever street sexual harassment case in the country took place this morning. This legal process, which is only in effect in the City of Buenos Aires, was officially created in December last year, and establishes that any type of harassment that “affects the dignity and the people’s right to physical and/or moral integrity will be sanctioned with up to 10 days of community service and/or a fine of up to AR $1,000.”
The event that prompted the case took place on March 20th, when Lucía Cabrera decided she had enough of a taxi driver who followed her for several blocks, asking for her phone number. “At first I ignored him, I was afraid he was following me, he had been doing so for several blocks,” she recalled in an interview with TN before entering the mediation.
Cabrera went on to say that “I generally try to explain why street harassment is wrong, because it creates a lot of fear in us.”
“Women suffer [through] these violent situations on a daily basis, and we go out to the streets in fear. I was about to get close to him to explain all of this but I ran into a police officer halfway and told him. He stopped the driver. Made him get out of the taxi and requested his documentation,” she said.
“The officer did a very good job, what’s not right about this is that no one knew about the law. Officers were never trained. The case was about to be archived, but fortunately I got in touch with a lawyer who has been working on this issue and she managed to keep it alive,” she added.
The law, drafted by Victory Front (FpV) City legislator Pablo Ferreyra, defines verbal or physical street harassment as “all unidirectional behavior conducted by one or more people against other people, based on gender, identity, sexual orientation who don’t want or reject this behavior and consider it to be affecting their rights to dignity and integrity.”
It also establishes the different ways in which this abuse can be committed: “direct or indirect sexual comments about the body, non consented pictures and/or recordings of intimate parts, improper or non consensual physical contact, cornering and following, masturbation and exhibitionism,” are the main areas covered by the law.
Cabrera recalled that the taxi driver “didn’t regret his actions at first.”
“He said he hadn’t actually done anything wrong. After explaining to him what street harassment was, he understood he was wrong and apologized,” she said.
Consulted about what she expects to get from the mediation, she said “it’s important to reach an agreement in which the taxi driver has to take a course on gender issues in order to raise awareness about this.”
“All I want is for this [harassment] to be over,” she finished.
The pre-judicial mandatory mediation is, as it name indicates, a legal instance that needs to be held before a trial in Argentina where both parties, aided by an impartial mediator, try to reach an agreement in order to prevent their dispute from going to court.