Some believe a little piropo never hurt anyone. That’s probably why in 2014, President Mauricio Macri – the then-mayor of Buenos Aires – felt comfortable defending catcalling. “There is nothing nicer than a piropo, even if it’s accompanied by something offensive, if someone says nice culo, it’s all good,” he said. A month before his comments, an NGO named Acción Respeto launched an anti-catcalling campaign in Buenos Aires, Fusion reports. For most women, catcalling isn’t a compliment. The unwanted aggressive act makes them feel unsafe, intimidated, ashamed, and powerless. With a new law introduced this week, Buenos Aires loudly proclaimed that there is no place for piropos in the city.
According to La Nación, the new law aims to make it easier for women to navigate public spaces. Any unwanted behavior – physical or verbal – directed at someone based on their gender, sexual orientation, or identity will lead to a $60 fine for the perpetrator. This includes comments that are sexual in nature, photographing or recording someone’s private parts, and physical contact.
Pablo Ferreyra, who introduced the bill, said, “All people have the right to move freely and with the confidence that they won’t be violence, regardless of the context, their age, the time of day, or the clothes they wore. Human rights do not depend and aren’t dictated by environment. Some manifestations of street harassment is seen as folkloric or traditional, which shouldn’t be an argument used to tolerate this violation. Violence cannot be proudly sponsored by any society.”
In Argentina, as in other parts of the world, catcalling is pervasive. 97 percent of Argentine women have been victims of street harassment – most of them first experienced this before turning 18. More than half of women heard their first piropo by age 15. A 2014 Universidad Abierta Interamericana found that 72.4 percent dislike catcalls. 59.2 percent of them felt uncomfortable, intimidated, and violated, according to La Nación.
For the time being, details are scant on how Bueno Aires intends to crack down on catcalling. But taking this step is paramount to building a safer city and dismantling rape culture. As Anti-Street Harassment Week founder Holly Kearl explains, street harassment and rape are inextricably linked. “Street harassment is about exerting power over someone, treating them with disrespect, and it’s often about sexually objectifying someone without their consent,” she said. “The acceptance of street harassment, the portrayal of it as a compliment or a joke, creates a culture where it is normal to disrespect someone or to comment on them or touch them without their consent. That culture helps make rape OK and lets rapists get away with their crime.”