Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro signed into law a bill of Congress that makes internet stalking a crime punishable by jail time, it was published on Thursday in the Federal Official Gazette.
The new amendment to the Penal Code provides for prison terms of six months to two years for those found guilty of the new offence.
It is a principle of criminal law that nothing constitutes a crime unless it is typified as such by law, so the new measure fills a void in that regard, law scholars pointed out.
Stalking is now illegal both in virtual and in real life, according to the new statute, which defines stalking as persecuting someone, repeatedly and by any means, threatening their physical or psychological integrity, restricting their ability to move around or, in any way, invading or disturbing their sphere of freedom or privacy.
But the penalty can be 50% harsher if the crime is committed against children, adolescents or the elderly, and against women for reasons of their female gender and also if there are more than one perpetrator or guns are involved.
The bill was submitted by Senator Leila Barros (PSB-DF), and had already been approved by the Senate in 2019. However, after changes made by the Lower House, the bill returned for approval to the Senate, which was finalized last month.
Senator Rodrigo Cunha (PSDB-AL) said the bill was extremely important in combating the persecution suffered by women, especially in the context of domestic and family violence.
He added that Brazil ranked 5th in the world in the number of cases of femicide, of which 76% were preceded by some sort of stalking.
“The repression of stalking practised with gender violence is essential, given the great probability that the conduct perpetrated by the persecuting agent will later become gradual or suddenly more serious, evolving into severe aggressions and, even, to femicide”, said Cunha.