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This Happened After a Famous Actress was Harassed On a Public Bus in Peru

Categories: Latin America, Peru, Citizen Media, Women & Gender

Inside a bus belonging to Metropolitano de Lima. Flickr image by leondeurgel [1]. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Peruvian Actress Magaly Solier [2], who had a leading role in the feature film The Milk of Sorrow [3], the first ever Peruvian movie nominated for an Academy Award, was going to a radio station for an interview using a Metropolitano de Lima [4] [es] bus when she discovered that a man was masturbating right behind her. Outraged, Solier denounced the incident [5] on the interview she had just minutes later.

This unleashed a wave of outrage expressed by other artists, but above all, by ordinary people, among them many women, who shared how they had been victims of similar situations in the past. A female minister even suggested [6] [es] women ought to carry scissors, nails and needles in their purses for self defense. After a strong campaign on media and social networks, the perpetrator was finally identified, thanks to images captured by security cameras at one of the Metropolitano stations.

Such a high profile incident led some blogs to address the issue which, unfortunately, was not a new one. Cynthia Yamamoto, the blogger on El último de la vía [7] [Last one in line; es] wondered if women can feel safe when using public transportation. She ended her blog post by saying:

Algo que aprendí de este lamentable incidente es que tenemos que pensar cómo nos sentimos las mujeres en el transporte público, en los paraderos, en las calles, en la ciudad. Es bueno que las mujeres -así como Magaly- denunciemos el acoso sexual callejero, porque nos permitirá ser peatonas más libres, más felices, más tranquilas. La actriz ganadora del Oso de Oro de Berlín ha dando una muestra de empatía y solidaridad nos dice: “si me pasa a mí, le puede pasara a cualquier persona”.

Something I learned from this deporable incident is that we have to think how we, women, feel on public transportation, at bus stops, on the streets, in the city. It's good that women – like Magaly- denounce street sexual harrasment, as it will allow us to be freer, happier, calmer women when on public transport. The Berlin Golden Bear awarded actress has shown empathy and sympathy and tells us: “if this happens to me, it can happen to anybody”.

Karla Salgado Zúñiga, on her Blog sin Nombre [8] [Blog without name; es] also shares her musings about the same incident:

Ya perdí la cuenta de cuántas veces me han metido la mano en la calle, se han sobajeado contra mí en el bus o me han dicho alguna grosería o lanzado algún silbido, tampoco faltan los “buenos días señorita” con una voz mañosa, o esos patas [hombres] que se me han acercado tanto a la cara, como si el espacio personal no existiera.

Claro, ahora no me callo, estoy molesta, me llega, grito, les digo “violador” o que por qué mejor no se van a decirle a su vieja [madre] que tiene “rica la vagina”. Se molestan, me dicen loca. Loca, ¿loca?, ¡loca! o sea, tú me agredes, te contesto y soy la loca. Nadie hace nada, la gente mira, y a veces siento que hasta me miran mal a mí y no al agresor de turno.

I've already lost count of how many times I've been groped on the street, men have brushed against me on the bus or have told me something obscene or given me a whistle, there are also those that wish “good morning miss” with a sly tone, or those guys that get too close to my face, as if personal space doesn't exist.

Of course, I don't keep quiet anymore, I'm upset, this enrages me, I shout, I call them “rapist” or tell them why don't they go tell those things to their old [mothers], that she has a “delicious vagina”. They get mad, they call me crazy. Crazy, crazy? Crazy! I mean, you assault me, I get back at you and I'm the crazy one. Nobody does anything, people just look and at times I feel that are giving me queer looks rather than censuring my attacker.

Group blog Paremos el acoso callejero [Let's stop street harrassment] dedicates a post [9] [es] to men who harass women by passing obscene comments, and they tell them:

Quizás piensas que tus silbidos, miradas o comentarios en voz alta sobre las mujeres son halagadores para ellas o que no generan cambios en sus vidas. Tal vez crees que tienes derecho a dirigirte a todas las mujeres en la calle, sólo por el hecho de que están ahí o porque se visten de alguna manera.

No podemos hablar en nombre de todas las mujeres de esta ciudad, ni de reglas que se apliquen a todos los casos; pero sí podemos sugerirte algunas reflexiones sobre ciertos argumentos que hemos escuchado muchas veces.
“Lo hago para halagarlas, para hacerles saber lo bonitas que son”.

Recuerda, ¿cómo te respondieron? ¿Alguna vez te dijeron: “¡gracias, eres muy amable!”? ¿No? ¿Y no has pensando que tal vez sea porque no se sintieron halagadas en lo más mínimo?

Maybe you think your whistling, staring and loud comments about women flatter them and that their lives don't change after that. Maybe you think you are entitled to address all women on the street, just because they are out there or because they are dressed in some way or other.

We can't speak on behalf of every woman in this city, nor about one-size-fits-all rules, but we can suggest that you reflect on some of the arguments we've heard many times.
“I do that to flatter them, to let them know how pretty they are”.

Remember how they responded? Have they ever said: “thanks, that is very kind of you!”? No? And you did not once think that this might be because they didn't feel flattered at all?

On the website of Exitosa Diario, sociologist Liz Meléndez also talked about the issue [10] [es]:

Si nos atrevemos a preguntar a un grupo de mujeres si alguna vez han atravesado por un hecho de violencia sexual, no todas darán una respuesta afirmativa; pero si escarbamos mucho más allá y profundizamos en las múltiples manifestaciones de ésta, puedo asegurar que el 100% de ellas dirá que sí.
Lo cierto es que mujeres y hombres nos situamos en el espacio público de forma diferente, las mujeres lo vivimos con cierto temor y cuidado, y ello no es vivir en igualdad. No se trata que las mujeres evitemos los riesgos y sigamos inventando estrategias para sentirnos y estar más seguras, se trata que apostemos por una cultura de respeto y reconocimiento del derecho de todas las personas a vivir libres de violencia.

If we dare to ask a group of women if they have gone through an episode of sexual violence, not all of them will give an affirmative answer; but if we go further and dig deeper into the many ways sexual violence is expressed, I can assure that 100% of them will answer yes.
The thing is women and men go differently through public spaces. We, women live with a certain fear and care, and that's not living in equality. This is not about women avoiding risks and inventing strategies for us to feel and be safer, this is about us putting in place a culture of respect and acknowledging the right of every individual to live free of violence.

Meanwhile, Twitter users also expressed their opinion:

Good morning, we are at Metropolitano Central Station waiting for the guy to see what happens.

Metropolitano: video shows that guy followed Magaly Solier to molest her http://t.co/oZzkPSkRSJ [15]

Metropolitano: video shows how Magaly Solier confronts her attacker and no one helps her.

Watch out! XXX-rated pages host videos of female users of Metropolitano (photos) http://ow.ly/xsHfN

Sexual harrassment on the streets also comes disguised as an amorous compliment.

Some users tried to suggest some solutions:

1. Control that passengers don't go packed like sardines. Bus capacity must be respected.

2) Let a female municipal control guard be at every bus stop so she can immediately receive any complaints of sexual perversion.