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“We are going to rape them”: the complaints of harassment in schools in Chile pose a challenge for the feminist government of Boric | International

Thousands of high school and university students participate in a march through downtown Santiago on March 25.  One of the demands is comprehensive sex education.
Thousands of high school and university students participate in a march through downtown Santiago on March 25. One of the demands is comprehensive sex education.Alberto Valdes (EFE)

“Yes poh, yes we are going to rape them”; to any mine [muchacha] and then leave it thrown away”; “We dragged her along the ground.” These are some of the messages written by seven third and fourth grade students [17 y 18 años] from the José Victorino Lastarria High School, in the municipality of Providencia, aimed at female students from emblematic schools in Santiago. The young people shared intimate photos of several students on Instagram without their consent and proposed to replicate the “herd”, alluding to the case of the gang rape of a young Spanish woman at the San Fermín party in 2016. The scandal occurred the second week of March took the students to the streets and triggered complaints of sexual harassment against teachers and students in different schools. The first great challenge of the feminist government of Gabriel Boric arose from the place where he forged his leadership: the classrooms.

‘La Manada de Providencia’ did not take long to climb to La Moneda. The Ministry of Education met with representatives of the schools involved, created working groups with the parents of the students and with students from colleges and universities. Marco Antonio Ávila, minister of the portfolio, explains by phone that the issue is “deeper” than the known facts and that it has to do with a patriarchal culture where gender violence is entrenched. “You have to uninstall some beliefs and notions in the teaching staff. From the “don’t run like a girl”, exemplifies the minister, a teacher by profession, to the doubt that he sows about a complaint about how the students behave. “The way of dressing or expressing oneself does not justify abuse or unequal treatment,” he points out.

The work of Education has been complemented by that of the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity, which, for the first time in Chile, is part of the political committee and which, due to the feminist stamp that Boric wants to impress on his Executive, has generated high expectations about the actions it takes regarding cases like this. Antonia Orellana, Minister of Women, maintains: “Being a feminist government is precisely to assume in a transversal and comprehensive manner the challenges that come in terms of gender.” For this reason, she explains in an email, they are working together with “all the incumbents” of the student case.

Between January 1 and March 22, the Superintendency of Education received 48 complaints of sexual harassment or assault. Almost three quarters of them do not involve physical aggression, which is stipulated as a crime. The significant rise (56%) has been recorded in complaints of behavior with a sexual connotation -without physical aggression-, whose definition is not present in Chilean legislation. To deal with this phenomenon, Orellana considers it “essential” for the country to pass a law that allows comprehensive sexual education, capable of addressing sexuality from early childhood to adolescence.

A stagnant sexuality law

Camila Rojas, deputy for Comunes (the party that supported Boric’s candidacy), presented last September a sexual education bill that seeks to encourage students “to develop a free, informed and responsible sexuality, in accordance with their age and progressive development. The proposal rests in Congress, which since the legislative elections last November has been split in half. “Because of the composition [parlamentaria] we have is not easy. But the big difference is that now we have a government committed to the issue,” says Rojas.

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One of the collaborators of the proposal was Nicole Lagos, from the Amanda Labarca Feminist Teachers Circle, a group that was born after the massive feminist student mobilization of 2018. The teacher assures that the objective of the project is to install issues that “are consistent” with the Comprehensive sex education. “It is not an outpost of abortionist murderers who want to teach children about masturbation as they painted us in the Chamber of Deputies,” she says by phone, after the rejection they received from the conservative sector.

Rojas highlights how the feminist movement of recent years has influenced today’s female students, who have internalized consent in sexual-affective relationships “He is not no! and the limits of what is acceptable to say and do have also changed”, says the deputy. Minister Ávila defends that one of the issues on his legislative agenda is to carry out a bill “that has a gender perspective and that allows improving the use of language, interactions, and having decisive action at each stage so that it is a non-sexist education. “We believe that this will prevent harassing behavior, and that we take charge in a preventive and reactive way,” she says.

After the series of complaints, the authorities have focused on updating the protocols and making diagnoses in the schools of how the situation is. The educational psychologist Jeannete Vergara, director of the No + Bullying Foundation [no más matonismo ni acoso en los colegios], which works with a thousand schools, criticizes current affectivity programs because they do not address issues such as sexting, -sending text messages with sexual content-. “It should be treated from when students are 10 years old, when sexual awakening begins,” she says, and points out that sexting starts at 12, when sexual relations begin. The professional, whose foundation offers free talks at schools in disadvantaged areas, stresses the importance of adolescents understanding the dangers of sending an intimate photograph no matter how much trust they have in the other person.

Diagnosis: bullying and violence

When the municipality of Providencia found out what had happened at the José Victorino Lastarria High School, they suspended it and filed a complaint against the accused students. They also carried out psychological support sessions in the schools involved. “The first feeling that came over us was rage and indignation. How could some young people write such atrocities”, comments Mayor Evelyn Matthei. The complaint, she maintains, is under investigation and the defendants are expected to spend the year remotely.

To address the issue in Providencia, the municipality’s Department of Diversity and Inclusion has been carrying out a diagnosis in the five municipal schools for years, in which it has detected cases of abuse, sexual harassment, violence, “among other reprehensible actions,” says the mayor. . “The new generations go 1,000 km per hour and feel that the judicial system, the laws and the State, in general, are not only not up to date, but also obsolete,” says Matthei. “There is no teaching on issues of sexuality, drug use, interpersonal relationships, etc. We are not keeping up with what society is asking of us, that’s why the funas [cancelaciones] they have been done so often, “says the mayor, who defends that there is not an increase in cases in the schools of her municipality, but an increase in complaints.

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