Reclaiming Safe Access to Public Space: Youth Resistance to Street Harassment in Chile.

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Tamara DROVE, UN Women, United Nations., Chile
In Chile, 9 out of 10 women experience street sexual harassment, 85% of them young women. Article 373 of the Criminal Code, enacted in 1874, is the only existing legislation that addresses this matter in Chile, aiming to "punishing offenses injurious to public morality and decency". But under what parameters is morality offended in a public space? Far from classifying street sexual harassment as a criminal offense, this law has been arbitrarily employed, for example, to sanction women’s clothing considered to be "provocative". This illustrates the hierarchic interaction between gender and space, which articulates forms of spatial exclusion of women's bodies from male-centric public domains through violence, perpetrated in the form of street harassment.

In response, and in an attempt to denaturalize patriarchal conventionalities of space and gender, a group of young Chilean sociologists created the “Observatory against Street Harassment” (Observatorio Contra el Acoso Callejero) in 2013. Among its activities, it drew up and presented the project: "Street Respect Law" to the Chilean Congress in 2015, in order to engage the Government in reflecting on public safety policies and to criminalize and punish street sexual harassment as a form of violence. Due to its success in Chile, youth-led movements have created their own Observatories in Uruguay, Nicaragua, Colombia and Bolivia, contributing to youth advocacy on gender equality in Latin America.

Hence, this paper employs Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as a theoretical-methodological tool for shedding light on street harassment in Chile, as a means of control based on restrictive discursive construction of gendered public spaces. This document also seeks to underscore how the possibilities of youth empowerment and resistance to unequal power relationships can influence policy and contribute to the process of reclaiming safe access to public spaces, ultimately achieving a real impact for gender equality.