I never experienced street harassment until I moved to Belize, Central America almost 9 years ago. I always thought that only very attractive women were harassed, as was my experience growing up and living in the USA. There is no ONE story of harassment in Belize. It happens to almost all women nearly everyday, from little girls in primary school uniforms to elderly grandmothers. We are constantly harassed on the street for the simple fact of being women.
Harassment takes all forms from some, “hey, beautiful!” to graphic descriptions of what men want to do to you, to touching and following. A particular Belizean practice is a “hissing” noise that sounds like how someone would call a dog. Many times the ones who touch or follow are drunk or under the influence of something else. One of the most disheartening things is that all my female friends can talk with “reasonable” men we know and be told how it makes us feel, ruins our days, etc. and we are told we should be flattered and that lots of women “like” it and respond positively to it. I’ve been told over and over, “it’s just a part of Belizean culture.”
It’s not uncommon to see police officers IN UNIFORM harassing women. Sometimes we chose to ignore, sometimes to speak up assertively, and sometimes use humor to diffuse. As a self-defense instructor working with women and girls, this concerns me. I thank you for this forum to share experiences, tips and ideas! Until street harassment ends, women will remain “second class citizens.”
– S. Renee Wentz