Priscilla Peixoto – from Cenarium
MANAUS – “I wish I could wear an outfit one day knowing that there won’t be people with embarrassing jokes or who think they have the right to touch my body, as if a piece of clothing gave them a green card for that. This is the feeling of the student Maria Luiza, 25, which reflects not only the desire for “freedom”, but also the fear that many women have of being sexually harassed at any moment, having their clothes as motivation and excuses from those who harass them.
According to a survey published this month, conducted by the Patrícia Galvão and Locomotiva institutes, between July and August 20201, about 83% of women avoid wearing certain types of clothes or accessories to avoid being harassed in the street. The survey also shows that eight out of ten women have already suffered some kind of violence while walking on public roads.
According to the study, women are more vulnerable to suffer violence while commuting. The research points out that, in the opinion of 72% of the interviewees, “public spaces are more dangerous for women than for men”.
The numbers of the research also reveal that 69% of the women have already been the target of insistent looks and inconvenient chants while moving around the city, and 35% have already suffered sexual harassment”. Endorsing the statics, Maria Luiza recalls that, besides having to change clothes, she has already avoided socializing because of fear.
“I have already stopped going out with an outfit that I really liked because I was afraid of what I would find on the street. When I wasn’t afraid, I decided to go out with my friends, who are people I trust, but my mother said it was better to change for fear of what I could go through outside the house.”
“I remember I bought a pair of shorts to go to a party and as soon as I put them on, I felt really good in them, but I decided to take them off for fear of being judged, harassed and blamed. It wasn’t even short, even if it was, we can’t normalize this kind of embarrassment”, laments the student.
When it comes to black women, the survey alerts to female vulnerability in public spaces and public transportation, with a worrying percentage. On average, 67% of black women affirmed having already experienced racism when walking on public roads. The report can be accessed in full here.
“It wasn’t because of my clothes, I was in uniform going to school”
The memory of a morning that should have been just another start of an ordinary day for then high school student Daniela Almeida*, has become a painful memory. Today, at the age of 34, the journalist shares the moments that happened inside public transportation on her way to school.
"I was only 17, I was finishing high school and I remember I was wearing one of those baggy pants. At a certain moment I felt a man breathing heavily close to my neck, at the time I thought it was because of the crowded bus, but as the bus was emptying, he wouldn't leave. It took me a while to believe that this guy, at 7 in the morning, was 'rubbing' up against a teenager who was in uniform going to school. Daniela Almeida.
“The curious thing is that some guys are so ‘subtle’ that the people around don’t even notice. As I entered the school, I went to the bathroom and started to cry. There I realized that it was never about the clothes. It is a question of character. My clothes didn’t even fit my body and I felt this horny guy rubbing his genital organ on me, it was disgusting. I didn’t have the maturity in my mind that I have today, unfortunately. Today, the one who would cry would be this pester who must have made other victims too”, she declares.
For the press secretary Islânia Lima, 39, despite the statistics, it is necessary to resist and not succumb to the popular sense that it is the woman’s fault. “I don’t change my clothes because of that anymore. I think we have to do just the opposite. I have already been through situations of harassment when I was 14 years old, when a person, seeing me in a blouse and shorts, shouted that ‘after we rape we run to tell the police’. I have never forgotten this. Today, I walk around with any kind of clothes and without fear of stares, and if I move I already look at them with a crooked eye, I hate harassment”, says Islânia.
In addition, the advisor points out that it is necessary to believe in the new laws formulated for this type of situation and educate children, since childhood, to form citizens who know the real meaning of the word respect to others.
“There is still a lot to work on in men’s education, where the ‘hunter and hunted’ law still prevails. I believe that the laws have helped us women to have more security, but there is still a lot to do and to make them aware that women are never judged by their clothes. I think it is the parents’ role to teach their children about us women. I have a son who is almost 18 years old and we talk a lot, especially about judgments. This role is ours, the new generation’s parents”, says Islânia.
Sexual harassment X Obscene acts
Sexual harassment is defined in Article 215-A of the Penal Code. “To practice, against someone and without his or her consent, a libidinous act in order to satisfy one’s lust or that of a third party,” says the article, which also determines a prison sentence of one to five years, if the act does not constitute a more serious crime.
For the head of the Specialized Crimes Against Women Police Station (DECCM) in the state of Amazonas, Débora Mafra, Brazil faces several challenges regarding women’s sexual freedom, which is often violated as a result of sexual harassment by third parties, whether known or not to the victim.
“It is difficult for a woman not to have suffered sexual harassment or for someone not to have witnessed such an act, or even just heard of a case of sexual harassment in the media, because this type of event is common”, laments the delegate.
Mafra takes the opportunity to explain the difference between obscene acts and sexual harassment, commonly confused by the population. “Obscene acts are performed in public places, but are not directed at a specific person, they are not characterized as sexual harassment, but simply as obscene acts, which is a criminal misdemeanor, also very common. Understanding this is essential to know that in sexual harassment the agent practices a libidinous act aimed at a person”, Débora explains.
The delegate also highlights some of the most common examples committed by sexual harassers. “Sexual harassment is usually done in public places, such as the street, public transportation and parties with large crowds of people. Rubbing yourself against the victim, touching her private parts or even masturbating in front of the victim. This crime is always committed without violence or serious threat, because if it has these, the crime will be rape”, says the police officer.
For the victims, the delegate advises them to seek help from a professional in the law as well as in mental and emotional health, since it can leave traumas in those who go through the situation. “Seek help and don’t be silent. The victim can be male or female, although the target audience is mostly women. And remember, we can never blame the victim woman, either for her clothing or the place she goes to, since she has the right to wear the clothes she wants and be anywhere without being disrespected”, she concludes.