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EL ESPECTADOR

Town In Colombia Aims To Ban Catcalling With New Law

A town in southwestern Colombia is trying to clamp down on catcalling — "piropos' (compliments) as they're known locally — that is all too common in a country long plagued by machismo.

In a rare public move against sexist behavior, the mayor's office in Timbío, in the department of Cauca, recently issued a "non-binding" decree that prohibits public sector workers from calling out to women on the street, the Bogotá daily El Espectador reports. The measure was passed on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. "They must eliminate from their daily habits expressions that allude to the bodies, clothing or movements of women," it reads.

The ban specifically refers to "rude" comments, "things that might offend women," the town's mayor, Libardo Vásquez, told CNN en Español. "The other type, gallant compliments, have nothing to do with the decision." Vásquez also said that the measure is "pedagogical" rather than economic, meaning offenders will be called on to participate in sensitivity training but will not be fined.

As part of its anti-catcalling effort, Timbío also posted signs in several strategic locations — including the central market, bus station and football stadium — informing men that if they have to say something to women, "it should be agreeable, not offensive."

Gender specialist Catalina Ruiz-Navarro applauds the move and says that cultural measures, as opposed to penalties, are the only way to curb aggressive sexist attitudes.

Others, however, oppose the crackdown — as mild as it may be — and defend the practice of "piropos' as a harmless cultural tradition. Vásquez says he's even gotten flak from mayors in other Colombian communities who joke that Timbío is no longer a place people can go "to fall in love."

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A Writer's Advice For How To Read The Words Of Politics

Colombia's reformist president has promised to tackle endemic violence, economic exclusion, pollution and corruption in the country. So what's new with a politician's promises?

Image of Colombian President Gustavo Petro speaking during a press conference in Buenos Aires on Jan 14, 2023

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, speaks during a press conference in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 24, 2023.

Manuel Cortina/ZUMA
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Words are a strange thing, and in literal terms, we must distrust their meaning. As I never hit anyone, I have never declared that I wouldn't. It never occurred to me to say it. Strangely, there is more power and truth in a simple declaration like "I love her" than in the more emphatic "I love her so much." A verbal addition here just shrinks the "sense" of love.

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