Sat | Jan 23, 2021

Mexico moves to stem unauthorised sharing of sexual images

Published:Thursday | November 26, 2020 | 1:34 PM
Olimpia Coral Melo, who became an activist against online sexual harassment and assault after a video of her having sex was published online in 2013, smiles during a talk hosted by the Benito Juarez borough of Mexico City, Monday, November 23, 2020. Melo's story and subsequent activism have led to the creation of numerous state laws against cyber violence, and Mexico's government is on the verge of passing a federal version of "Olimpia's Law." (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Activist Olimpia Coral went through an inferno in 2013, when an ex-boyfriend posted sexual images that made the rounds in her conservative town in Mexico.

Things got so bad — the shaming, the Internet bullying — that she hid in the trunk of a taxi when going to her grandmother’s house a few blocks away.

Seven years later, she has a proposed federal law named after her.

Mexico’s Senate has approved hefty prison time for the filming or distribution of sexually explicit images without a person’s consent or through deceit.

Supporters of “Olimpia’s Law” say it guarantees rights to personal privacy and sexual privacy and protects the integrity of women.

It was the product of many years of struggle by women’s groups, who have already convinced about 29 of Mexico’s 32 states to adapt existing laws or pass new ones against the practice.

But in 2013, Coral was alone in the town of Huauchinango, a socially conservative and heavily Indigenous area in central Puebla state.

The local newspaper had even published screenshots of the video, showing Coral and the man having sex; only she was identifiable.

“There was my photo, naked, under a headline in red letters,” Coral recalls of the months-long ordeal.

“I went to bed praying to God I would die.”

Now, under the new federal law — which still must be approved by the lower house of congress — her ex-boyfriend could get up to 6 years in prison for having posted the video without her consent. The law also covers media publications and allows for legal orders to delete such material.

But when she went to local prosecutors in 2013, they refused to act, despite the threatening and pornographic messages she was flooded with.

The National Statistics Institute estimates that 9.4 million women in Mexico have been affected by online harassment.

But having laws doesn’t necessarily mean that crimes will be punished.

The activist group “Luchadoras” - or “Fighters”- said in a study this week that women make up 84% of the victims of online harassment.

The report said of the more than 2,000 investigations opened in the last three years for unauthorised image sharing, only 17% have led to some legal consequences, only 24 cases have been brought to trial and there have been only four convictions.

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