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Catcalling, in the City of Buenos, along with other forms of harassment, is now considered an offense punishable with fines of up to 1000 pesos and community service.

Yesterday the Legislature of Buenos Aires passed a bill defining various forms of harassment in public spaces with the intention of “preventing and punishing sexual harassment, occurring in public places, where one is harassed, mistreated or intimidated, affecting the dignity, freedom, free passage and right to physical or moral integrity of people based on their gender, identity and sexual orientation.”

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Accordingly the bill defines verbal or physical harassment as “all uninvited behavior, carried out by one or more people, based on gender, identity and sexual orientation, that is undesired or rejected and considered to affect a person’s rights to dignity and integrity.”

For Pablo Ferreyra, the legislator behind the initiative, the bill is about tackling attitudes and actions which are just as unacceptable as their are ingrained in today’s society. The central aim is to “clearly identify sexual harassment, a common practice that affects the daily lives of women, young girls and teenagers and for a long time now has been completed normalized.”

The extent of that normalization is hard to overstate. Two years ago, the current head of state, Mauricio Macri, insisted that women appreciated uninvited sexual comments. “There’s nothing nicer being told you have a cute bum, even if it’s accompanied by rude language,” said the then-mayor of Buenos Aires. Obviously that sparked outrage and he subsequently apologized. It goes to show that these antiquated sexist views are still a very real problem.

According to a report carried out back in April by the organization MuMaLá, on average Argentine women begin to suffer harassment on the streets from as young as 9 years old. 9 years old…

quiero caminar sin que me jodan

A banner seen during a NiUnaMenos march in protest against gender violence in October, reading “I want to walk around without being pestered”

That, however, is changing, albeit slowly, according to Ferreyra who cited the NiUnaMenos movement as a driving force behind the bill and paid tribute to the “thousands of women fighting and working without rest to strengthen their rights and live in a world free of gender violence.”

Still, generating an increased awareness around the issues and problems behind the bill is as much a priority as the fines themselves. Accordingly the law also establishes “the need for awareness campaigns about the issue, […] allocating the Executive  Power the duty of carrying out these campaigns.”