I wasn’t going to share this piece of news here(although I did share it with my Peace Corps Colombia community) because I felt a bit like I had beaten the dead piropos (catcalling) horse. Then I went out in public. Today it was not the quantity of piropos that I received, but rather the quality, that reminded me that this news is Big and Important. This evening I was out walking the dog Teo when I heard, “I’ll be your dog if it means you’ll take me out and pull me around like that.” This was actually the second time a man had yelled after me about wanting to be my dog. Fortunately, unless a man is addressing me by my name or with a kind, “Buenas” of some sort, I just tune them out, so I can’t really tell you what sort of indecent proposals were made to me in either instance.
And both times it happened I thought, “Ohhhhhhh to live in Timbío, Cauca.” Because on November 25, this town decreed catcalling illegal. The law reads (my translation of the quotes taken from El Heraldo):
Whereby we adopt measures of awareness and prevention of forms and types of violence and discrimination against women such as street harassment.
It goes on to specify for everyone:
Whistling, phrases in bad taste, and catcalling of women are prohibited in this Caucano place.
And from El Tiempo (translation mine again):
This decree invites us to reflect on the acceptance and repetition of everyday language that breeds inequality and on certain practices which, by being repeated, have normalized and trivialized violence against women, presenting it as gallantry, humor, or a right that men have. In exchange, it promotes implementing the use of a language of equity and respect towards all women and girls.
Prior to implementation, the mayor’s office talked to women of the town to determine where they felt least safe and most harassed. In those places, they installed signs warning of the sanctions that say things like, “A gentleman doesn’t harass women in the street, make Timbío a safe place for them” and “What you call a compliment is street harassment, and it aggravates and intimidates women.”
Those found breaking this law will be subject to an educational course, although fines haven’t been ruled out completely.
I don’t know how they will measure the impact of this move, but at least creating the awareness of something so often just brushed off as “culture” is a step towards conscienticizing the people of the pueblo that their words have a true impact (and one that is not usually getting that girl in your arms).