Philippines’ streets should be safer for women with new law signed

May 29, 2019 - 5:39 PM
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A row of jeepneys are seen plying a road in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines January 20, 2018. Picture taken January 20, 2018. (Reutes/Dondi Tawatao)

The proposed measure to protect Filipinos  from street-level harassment is finally signed into law.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, the principal author of the law, made this announcement on social media on May 29.

“This law is a landmark victory against bastos culture. Goodbye, catcallers!” Hontiveros said.

 

This is an expansion of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 that only covers sexual harassment committed by people with authority in the workplace, schools and training institutions.

Prior to this measure, there were only local ordinances against such acts in some cities such as in Quezon City and Manila.

Victims of sexual harassment in public spaces, including inside public utility vehicles, sometimes resort to social media to make known their experiences.

Safe spaces

A Social Weather Stations survey cited found that 88% of women between 18 to 24 years old experienced sexual harassment in 2016.

Of these incidents, 58% take place in public areas such as streets and alleys.

Hontiveros wrote her reason to push for this law:

“Despite the fact that street harassment is a daily reality for an overwhelming majority of Filipinas and LGBTs, there are no clear-cut laws that specifically address this malaise.”

“Provisions of the Revised Penal Code on unjust vexation do not cover with exactitude gender-based, misogynistic and homophobic public spaces harassment, whilst provisions on sexual harassment only at present cover harassment in the workplace between a superior and subordinate.”

The Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017 states that:

“Gender-based street and public spaces harassment is constitutive of unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a person in a public space without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation and identity.”

Aside from wolf-whistling and cat-calling, other acts considered as sexual harassment are “lascivious language, stalking, rubbing or touching, indecent gestures, exhibitionism and public masturbation.”

Public spaces are also specified. These include “streets and alleys, public parks, schools, government buildings, malls, bars, restaurants, transportation terminals, public markets, and public utility vehicles.”

In terms of harassment in PUVs, Section 10 stated that the Land Transportation Office can have driving licenses of perpetrators forfeited while the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board can suspend or revoke the operators’ franchises.

Penalties also depend on the level of the violation which range from light to severe. Fines range from P10,000 to P50,000 or detention for one to six months.