Mexico City, Jan 12 (EFE).- So that “girls and women can also be safe online” is why Olimpia Coral Melo began waging her fight against online violence.
Her sexual violence case motivated Mexican lawmakers to pass a law bearing her name and establish a penalty of up to six years in prison for spreading non-consensual images with sexual and intimate content.
The Mexican feminist activist told EFE in an interview that the fight she’s heading against this kind of violence started after the online posting – without her consent – of a sexual video of her and her ex-boyfriend. When she looked into filing a lawsuit against the perpetrator, she was told that the crime did not exist on Mexico’s books.
Since 2021, a number of reforms to the General Law for Women’s Access to a Life Free from Violence and to the Mexican Penal Code bear her name and have inspired similar laws to be considered in Argentina, Honduras and Ecuador.
“After a considerable time of feeling bad and guilty, along with a point where it was not recognized as violence, it was my family who made me see that I wasn’t a bad person. After that, I met more women who, like me, had been the victims of this and we began a fight, first, to have this recognized as violence and, second, to have some kind of penalty for it,” she said.
According to a study published in Mexico last December, 95 percent of all victims of online violence are women and eight in 10 of the identified aggressors are men “and people close to those women,” she added.
Recognized by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in 2021 thanks to her work in this area, Olimpia is now working to get international condemnation of online sexual violence.
She wants the whole world to recognize that online attacks go beyond computer screens and into real life.
“Although it’s virtual, it’s real. When you’re a survivor of this sexual violence, of the non-consensual spread or production of intimate material, you feel that you were raped without being penetrated. A person feels that they violated her body with each ‘like,’ with each ‘share,’ with each ‘I like it,’ with each comment, with each interaction,” she said.
“And the worst thing is that it’s not only the person who published the sexual video or … the photo, but rather all of us rape someone when we interact in this community violence that’s occurring via the Internet,” she added.
The first place where Olimpia’s law was approved was Mexico’s Puebla state, where she was born. From there, the trend spread little by little to other states until it got to the national Congress and Senate.
“I didn’t do it alone. It was thanks to dozens and dozens of women that, like me, had been victims of sexual violence on the Internet and who began a fight that we’re still waging,” she said.
“Today, (the law) has been approved throughout Mexico, but it’s also been presented in Argentina; Ecuador; Los Angeles, California; and Honduras. UN Women had recognized it as a landmark for the countries of Latin America and this has helped it to get into different people’s minds, into different congresses,” she said.
However, the Olimpia law is not seeking “to put everyone in jail” or for people not to be able to fully experience their sexuality. Also, it doesn’t “endorse the pornography culture.” On the contrary, it seeks to prevent “a woman or a girl from suffering this kind of violence.”
“It’s known as ‘revenge porn’ but it’s not that. That would reduce it and would justify a porn culture that objectifies, sexualizes, minimizes our bodies into sexual objects,” she said.
Having the law bearing her name spread in the region, for Olimpia, is also “a kind of justice.”
“When it happened to me,” she said, “every time someone looked on the Internet they’d see ‘Olimpia, the tasty morsel from Huauchinango.’ Each time they looked me up on the social networks, the first thing they’d see was a sex video of me. My name was linked with a sex video and was available to anyone with a click. My body, my life, my name, my skin was completely in the patriarchal public domain.”
“The fact that now a part of me (the law), which doesn’t belong to me, is also appearing in other spaces … helps and is a kind of justice,” she emphasized.
Olimpia lamented the fact that in Latin America women have this in common: “living in a completely macho culture.” But she added that “at the same time, it’s hopeful to know that when we Latinas join together, we can also conquer macho spaces.”
All this, she said she learned by going down the road of feminism, adding that she would have enjoyed knowing about that much earlier.