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Love and Sex Info
“I’ve never felt so guilty in my life,” says Anmol. He’s been with his girlfriend for two years but lately he’s found himself fantasising about her best friend.
“I don’t want to mess up my relationship over something like this but I really don't know how to get her friend out of my mind,” says Anmol. “I’m turned on every time I’m around her.”
“We don’t need that kind of support,” runs the slogan on a poster showing a man thrusting himself up against a woman.
“We don’t want that hand,” reads another ‘no groping’ poster. They’re part of a campaign against sexual harassment on the buses of Colombia's capital Bogota, set up by a group of women who’ve had enough of wandering hands and offensive sexual comments.
“During rush hour, when the buses are packed, the male passengers take the opportunity to stand close to women and feel them up,” says Marisol Dalmazo of the Latin American Women and Habitat Network in Colombia. “It’s offensive and restrictive to women.”
Marisol has been running a programme since 2007 in Bogota to promote neighbourhood women’s centres and make the streets safer for women and girls. And she’s the driving force behind a campaign to put a stop to one of the harmful side-effects of Latin America's macho culture: street sexual harassment.
“It’s something that's always happened and not only in Latin America,” she stresses. “It’s now important that we draw attention to the issue and make men aware that what they’re doing is sexual harassment and mustn’t be tolerated under any circumstances.”
“We put up posters at every bus station and bus stop,” she says. “The bus company employees help us – they even wear t-shirts with slogans against sexual harassment.”
Marisol and her organisation also act out role plays about sexual harassment on the bus. Women dressed as men perform scenes about groping, and then ask passengers what they think about the behaviour.
“We generally get positive responses,” she says. “More and more, people think sexual harassment should be condemned, that this kind of behaviour mustn’t be tolerated.”
Marisol can’t say for sure whether her campaign is having any effect. “But what we can say is that it’s reached a wide public who use public transport every day,” she says. “The best thing we can do is draw attention to the problem.”
Women are often advised to change the way they dress to avoid harassment, says Marisol, but she doesn’t see why women should put up with restrictions because men think it’s OK to hassle them.
“We’re against advice like ‘don’t wear low necklines’ or ‘don’t wear miniskirts’,” she says. “We think women should be able to wear what they want. It should never be a reason for them to be harassed.”
Photos: Latin American Women and Habitat Network, Colombia
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