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Girls & Women

Buenos Aires Makes Sexual Harassment Illegal with $60 Fine

Aixa Rizzo, who posted a video online recounting her experience of verbal harassment at the hands of strangers, helped inspire the legislation in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

In so many places around the world, women walking down the street, minding their own business are subject to catcalls and lewd comments.

Often their only choices are responding and engaging with the perpetrator or ignoring them.

But no longer in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Read More: The Femicide Crisis in Latin America is Too Deep for Laws Alone to Address

The city council voted on Wednesday to impose a $60 fine on “direct or indirect comments referring to a person’s body” as well as unwanted contact, pursuing someone, public masturbation and indecent exposure, and photographing someone’s genitals without consent, according to the BBC.

The perpetrators can also be sentenced to community service.

"Some forms of sexual harassment in public are accepted as a traditional part of our culture," Pablo Ferreyra, the lawmaker behind the bill, told the BBC. "That should not be a reason to tolerate this abuse."

The new law represents a small step toward combating a growing problem of gender-based discrimination and violence that has become a hot-button political issue throughout Latin and South America recently, with many countries taking steps to pass laws against “femicide.”

Read More: Women in Argentina Protest Rape and Death of Girl, 16, With #MiercolesNegro Walkout

The rape and murder of a 16-year-old Argentinian girl in October sparked widespread protests and strikes under the slogan #NotOneLess. Lucía Pérez was allegedly drugged and raped by at least two men who then tried to wash evidence off of her before dropping her at a hospital, where she died of internal injuries.

And though the country passed a law against femicide in 2012, outlawing domestic violence and honor killings in order to help protect women, violence against women has increased 78% since 2008.

In Colombia, a country of 47 million, one woman is killed every other day by femicidal violence. In Argentina, the number is closer to one a day. In Mexico, five a day. Brazil, 15.

The new law in Buenos Aires will also come with a public education campaign to change attitudes toward harassing and disparaging behavior.