Originally published on Global Voices August 12.
Peru and Colombia’s 930-mile long border running deep through the Amazon often sees the Andean neighbours collaborate. That could now extend to sexual molesters.
To stem a rise in harassment of women on its packed bus services, Peru’s government is mooting plans to put up an elite force of undercover female cops as ‘bait’ to catch offenders.
It follows a successful pilot program in Colombia, where a team of women wearing “tight trousers, miniskirts and low-cut tops” and operating with concealed radio devices has caught 129 men this year, according to a Colombian police deputy in Peru’s El Comercio newspaper on Aug. 6.
“Sexual harassment has always existed. Today the technology exists to record such cases,” Interior Minister Daniel Urresti told reporters. “It’s possible we could be doing it soon.”
The move comes after Peru’s dire harassment record was propelled to national front pages in June, after a famous Academy Award-nominated actress caught a man masturbating behind her on Lima’s metropolitan bus line. A senior female minister said at the time that women should carry scissors and needles to use in self-defense if “authorities are slow to react” to such incidents.
Only half of the 40 registered cases on Lima’s Metropolitan bus line this year resulted in victims pressing charges, women’s rights organisation Warma Wasi said. “It was like a superhero film,” was how one Colombian woman described the intervention of one of the so-called “angels of the Transmilenio”, the Colombian capital, Bogota’s public transport network, in the newspaper report.
“I felt someone touch my bum and began to insult the aggressor. Nobody defended me, in fact people began to move away […]. Suddenly a girl arrived and went for the guy that was touching me, she pulled him to the ground and held him there until we arrived at the next station were the police took him away. When we realised she was a policewoman, everyone clapped.”
The women are highly-trained in self-defense and carry electric shock devices, the police deputy said.
Peruvian legislators passed a law this week making sexual harassment in the street a crime. Though public attitudes may be lagging.
According to a survey by Peru’s Insitute of Public Opinion, 77 percent of men and 74 percent of women believe that “women who dress provocatively expose themselves to a lack of respect in the streets.”
Some reactions can be found on Twitter also:
Autoridades montaron esta táctica para frenar manoseos a mujeres en el sistema de transporte http://t.co/r0GPT10gQM
— Cesar Villena Vera (@cd_1988) agosto 4, 2014
Authorities mount this tactic to stop women being groped on public transport
Así atrapan a mañosos en “Metropolitano” dColombia http://t.co/r33StZ34wK / mujeres guapas y entrenadas son anzuelos, ya cayeron 120 cerdos
— ana trelles (@anatrelles) agosto 4, 2014
Beautiful, well-trained women are bait. 120 pigs have already fallen.
In response to the new law against street harassment, some feared it could lead to complaints at any opportunity:
— PEATONES LIMA (@peatoneslima) agosto 7, 2014
Yesterday on the bus a girl grazed her chest on my shoulder, looked at me and smiled. Should I report her for harassment?
Ridiculez..puedes ir a la cárcel por mirar demasiado tiempo a una mujer, mejor te vuelves terruco y te liberan. #acososexual
— Horacio Benavides (@chome) agosto 7, 2014
Ridiculous… you can go to jail for looking at a woman for too long, better to be a terrorist, then they’ll free you.
This refers to the release without charge this week of six linked to the political wing of the Shining Path terrorist group. Peru President Ollanta Humala criticised the judges’ decision, which released the lawyer of former Shining Path leader, Abimael Guzman.
— Annely (@annelyruiz) agosto 6, 2014
This is good news. Peru’s cabinet agrees to make sexual harassment on the street a crime.