Thursday 26 January 2023

Legislators approve jail terms for street sexual harassment in Costa Rica

Legislators approved sanctions non-consensual sexual harassment that fines of a whistle, shout, or comment of a sexual nature to a person passing by

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(QCOSTARICA) Legislators on Tuesday approved in second and final debate, after extensive discussion, the Acoso Sexual Callegero (Street Sexual Harassment) law.

The initiative, once signed by President Carlos Alvarado and published in La Gaceta, establishes prison terms for those who persecute or corner a person on the street with a sexual connotation, as well as those who take, without consent, photos or videos for sexual purposes in public places.

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Also, acts such as exhibitionism or masturbation in public areas and transport will be punished.

The reform will impose fines for behaviors for catcalls – whistles, shouts, or comments of a sexual nature to a person passing by, without their consent. While the initiative is aimed at protecting women from sexual harassment on the street, it can also apply to male victims.

The new law was approved by Legislative Assembly after the Constitutional Court overturned the argument of several legislators that it was impossible to judge whistles, gasps and moans, as well as all kinds of sounds with a sexual connotation.

The bill establishes the following sanctions:

  •  From 10 to 18 months in prison: to those who take photos or videos with sexual intent, without consent, in public places and transport; the penalty would increase to two years if the artwork is displayed or sent to someone else.
  • From 6 months to a year: for those who masturbate or display their genitals with sexual intention in public spaces.
  • From 8 months to a year: whoever chases or corners a person for sexual purposes.

All prison terms would be increased by a third for a repeat offense, if the offense is committed by more than one person, if the victim is a minor, a senior, or has a disability.

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For those who utter, direct or execute, with a sexual connotation, words, noises, whistles, gasps, moans, gestures or gestures towards another person, a fine of 15 to 30 days will be imposed, in public spaces or transport; and 25 to 35 day fine if the conduct is committed by two or more people, or through the use of electronic means.

Monetary fines are based on the base salary of a judicial clerk, which is currently ¢450,200 monthly.

Police must act. The bill also establishes responsibilities for the police forces., that they must intervene ex officio and without delay in situations of street harassment.

The officers must guarantee the integrity of the victims, whom they must help to identify the alleged harassers. Under the plan, officers must arrest the person accused of harassment. And must produce a police report of the incident.

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The roots of the street sexual harassment law dates back to 2015, when it came to public light the actions of a man – “viejo verde” (sexual pervert) – in the boulevards of downtown San Jose, filming up the skirts of women walking the streets.

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