Student groups declared on Monday a “state of emergency” at universities in Costa Rica, where they reported an alarming increase in cases of sexual harassment at institutions of higher education.
“We inform the university community nationwide with urgency that, as of this moment, we are in a state of emergency, because the violence against women in the different campuses of the country has been persistent and historic,” said about 20 students from the country’s four public universities.
In a statement read at a press conference, the students criticized “the negligence with which the university authorities have handled these cases of complaints of harassment and sexual harassment against students.”
The issue was highlighted last week, when the weekly Semanario Universidad published the testimony of several women who reported cases of sexual harassment by a professor of law at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) over several years.
According to the report, the professor in question had been suspended for a week as a penalty for writing sexually explicit comments on social media, but other more serious cases were left in impunity.
“For many years, we have been harassed and violated in our courses and in the corridors, and we kept quiet because of the fear that we feel due to the cover-up of these practices,” said Andrea Chacón, president of the Student Federation of the UCR.
“The time has come when we will not keep silent,” she added.
UCR’s rector, Henning Jensen, supported the students’ statement and expressed his willingness to promote changes in the treatment of complaints of sexual harassment.
“It’s a historic moment in which university women raise their voices, and this goes deep into our consciousness to change things,” Jensen said.