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Why Buenos Aires' new catcalling law is a victory for women everywhere.

A new law takes away creeps' free pass to catcall.

Why Buenos Aires' new catcalling law is a victory for women everywhere.

On April 2, 2015, Aixa Rizzo posted a video on YouTube about the lewd comments hurled at her on a daily basis.

The video went viral, with over half a million views in just a few days. Rizzo, a student from Buenos Aires, titled the video "Sexual harassment on the street: from a compliment to a violation."

In the video, she describes being subjected to incessant catcalls and lewd comments. She says the male construction workers working on a building near her home unapologetically catcalled her every day. It made her feel uncomfortable. It made her fear for her physical safety.


Rizzo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko/AP.

One day, she recalls in the video, three of the men followed her. She heard one ask another where they should take her. She stood her ground, gripped her pepper spray, and let them have it once they were close enough. She was prepared to defend herself by whatever means necessary.

The men accused her of overreacting. When she later asked police to write a report, the officers suggested the men were simply giving her compliments. They agreed to write up the report only after she told them the explicit nature of their so-called compliments. Finally, after an agonizing month of consideration and denial from other people, she took her concerns public. Enough was enough.

Her words in the video struck an important chord that would lead to tangible change in the right direction in Bueno Aires.

After Rizzo's video went viral, city lawmaker Pablo Ferreyra was inspired to introduce legislation. He told BBC, "Some forms of sexual harassment in public are accepted as a traditional part of our culture. That should not be a reason to tolerate this abuse."

The law would impose a $60 fine to catcallers in Buenos Aires, including anyone who commented about or made reference to a woman's body parts.

Image via iStock.

In a bold and powerful move, the city council in Buenos Aires approved the anti-catcalling measure on Dec. 7, 2016.

After all that Rizzo and women like her have been through, it's a big deal. It means that her story and the stories of others have made a difference.

Violence against women is up in Argentina, with a 78% increase since 2008. The country passed a law against femicide in 2012, making domestic violence and honor killings illegal, but that was less than five years ago. There's still a long way to go when it comes to making things safer for women.

A 16-year-old girl's brutal rape and murder in October could have also played a part in pushing this important law forward: Lucía Pérez was drugged and raped by at least two men before being left at a hospital, where she died as a result of internal injuries. Her death sparked an outrage, and people took to the streets using the hashtag #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess).

The passage of this legislation means that people's collective voices were heard, and that's incredible.

In broader terms, this new law also makes it illegal in Buenos Aires to capture images of genitalia without consent, engage in unwanted physical contact, pursue someone, or engage in public masturbation or indecent exposure.

It's true it's only a fine for now; it's not enough just yet. But it is a step in the right direction. This law means men like the ones who made Rizzo feel unsafe might think twice before making lewd comments and threatening bodily harm.

Rizzo recognized this revolutionary legislation in a celebratory tweet, too:

It reads: "The law against sexual harassment on the street is a big step towards getting rid of violence against women from the start."

This new law sends a strong message to the world that this type of behavior is not OK.

It shows that there's hope for all of us: Things can change for the better when people stand up against injustices. That's always something worth celebrating.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

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