SPAIN has gone a step further in protecting its women out in public: hassling or harassing women in the street, in bars, at private parties or anywhere else – although these are the most frequent locations where it happens – will now be considered a ‘minor’ criminal offence of ‘gender violence’ and attract fines, house arrest or community service.
One-off incidents of unwanted sexual comments, groping, or persistently and insistently hassling a woman and refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer – or ‘sexual or sexist expressions, behaviours or propositions’ where this makes women feel ‘intimidated, humiliated, unsafe or generally unsettled’, or where it is reasonably considered that it could even if it does not, whether or not the perpetrator knows her, could lead to fines of several hundred euros, a month’s house arrest and being electronically tagged, a month’s community service, and an injunction preventing the accused from approaching the female in question.
Brought in by Unidas Podemos, whose Irene Montero leads the ministry for equality, the offence originally carried much stiffer punishments – between three and nine months of community service.
Although it was already, technically, an offence to do this, there was no real legal framework for it and few cases would have ended in punishment.
The problem still exists of how to identify the men responsible where it is in the street and they are complete strangers, however.
But it is hoped that the threat of a fine or house arrest could act as a much-needed deterrent.
Sexual harassment of this nature is already a criminal offence in several EU countries, including France and The Netherlands, attracting fines of between €90 and €750.
After both countries made it an offence in 2018, European Parliament recommended all other member states followed suit after finding out that at least 55% of women in Europe had been on the receiving end of this treatment and that it was rarely, if ever, reported.
Now that it is enshrined in law, it will require men who habitually indulged in this type of conduct, considering it to be ‘just lads mucking about’, to be more aware of their behaviour and understand the difference between friendly chat with a woman he is interested in and for whom it is clearly mutual, and making indecent propositions to a female who does not appreciate them at all.