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Catcalling Is Now a Criminal Offense in These Chilean Suburbs

Two mayors in Chile are showing residents they won’t tolerate street harassment in the country’s capital any longer.

Men who catcall or sexually harass women on the streets of Santiago’s Las Condes and Recoleta suburbs could earn themselves fines up of to $200 and $385, respectively, according to Agence France Presse.

Daniel Jadue, the mayor of Recoleta, became the first politician in Chile to criminalize sexual harassment last month, TeleSur reported

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“Gender violence is a growing cycle that originates with a [power] gap that seems to be completely normalized in our country,” Jadue said when the new law was announced. “The most important is the beginning of a cultural change, to put this topic on the table for discussion, the topic of violence against women and sexual minorities in public spaces, and especially when there is an asymmetry of power.”

Joaquin Lavin, the mayor of Las Condes, echoed those sentiments this week when he announced a similar policy, telling reporters, "What we want to do is raise the level of respect on public streets.”

In addition to imposing fines, anti-street harassment signs, which say, “We don’t bother or offend anyone here. We are against street harassment,” will be posted around Las Condes. The signs will be hung in public and shared spaces, including construction sites and bus stops.

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Last year, the city council of Buenos Aires, Argentina also criminalized sexual harassment, voting to impose a $60 fine for forms of harassment, including unwanted contact, indecent exposure, and “direct or indirect comments referring to a person’s body.”

Sexual harassment and violence against women are pervasive problems not only in Chile, but in much of Latin America. A widespread “machismo culture” reinforces social norms that devalue women and perpetuate gender inequality.

In recent years, high rates of gender-based violence have led women in Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina to take to the streets to call for change and stronger legal protection for women and girls.

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