A Colombian city has decided to ban catcalling, becoming among the first places to issue an official decree against street harassment.
The non-binding decree, announced on Nov. 25, applies to public-sector workers and contractors only. Violators will receive verbal reprimand, sensitivity training, or counseling, not fines, according to El Espectador.
“The decree was made to prohibit lewd, coarse cat-calling that offends ladies,” Timbío’s mayor, Libardo Vásquez, told CNN en Español, adding that appropriate, polite compliments aren’t banned under the decree.
Timbío has also launched a city-wide campaign discouraging cat-calling, including ads on public transit, stadiums and other places where women say they are frequently sexually harassed.
The mayor said that the ad campaign will encourage men to “reflect on the acceptance and repetition of everyday language that causes inequality and certain practices that have repeatedly normalized and trivialized violence against women, presented as gallantry, humor or the rights of men.”
— Reevolucion Global (@ReevolucionG) November 9, 2016
A lawyer for la Casa de Mujer, a local women’s organization, says it’s an important step.
“Catcalls are an expression of a patriarchal culture that assumes that women’s bodies exist to satisfy men’s looks and desires, and that men have the right to express those desires publicly,” said Erika Rodríguez.
Feminists in the United States have periodically called for similar restrictions.
For instance, in a 2014 New York Times article, a Northwestern University law professor suggested legislation that would forbid “uninvited harassing speech or actions targeted toward individuals in public spaces on the basis of sex or sexual orientation when done with the intent to intimidate.”
But opponents of such policies say they would limit First Amendment rights and could disproportionately affect certain populations.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.