San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Security Minister declares zero tolerance for sexual harassment

Costa Rica’s Public Security Minister, José María Tijerino, spoke today to female lawmakers about Costa Rica’s sexual harassment law and how it should be applied to policies at the National Police. He said he would follow President Laura Chinchilla’s recommendation to work with Public Security Vice Minister Flora María Calvo to implement a policy of gender equity in the police force.

On Jan. 15, Calvo quit her post at the ministry, claiming cases of sexual harassment by male officers against female officers went unpunished.

Tijerino promised to better enforce sexual harassment policies in the future. “As minister, there will be zero tolerance for sexual harassment and there will be support for any woman to denounce it when it happens,” he said. “As minister of Public Security, I can’t handle every case, so I trust the (Ombudsman’s Office) to follow up on complaints and make sure the law is enforced.”

However, female police officers have complained that gender bias exists when it comes to patrol assignments, and stereotyping is common within the police force.

Tijerino responded by saying, “Let’s be realistic. If women close their eyes when they shoot, we can’t protect the public that way.”

“Tijerino is minimizing the problem, so we’re asking the Ombudsman’s Office to follow up and investigate, to have real numbers and start a campaign against sexual harassment,” Gloria Bejarano, a lawmaker from the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), told The Tico Times.

Lawmakers also vowed to create a government agency to enforce sexual harassment laws in all government institutions.

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