By Charissa Luci-Atienza
President Duterte has been urged to sign into a law a Congress-ratified bill seeking to penalize gender-based street, public spaces and online harassment.
Deputy Speaker and AAMBIS-OWA partylist Rep. Sharon Garin, co-author of the bill, sought the immediate enactment of the proposed Safe Street, Public and Online Spaces Act, citing the need to penalize acts that invades a victim’s sense of personal safety on the streets, in public spaces, and online.
“The campaign against sexual harassment should not only be limited to the celebration of International Women’s Month and that all Filipinos, in their own capacity, can contribute to making this country a place that upholds the culture of respect,” she said in a statement.
On February 6, 2019, bicameral conference committee report on the bill seeking to penalize gender-based street and public spaces harassment was ratified and is awaiting the President’s signature.
Garin cited the need for the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), in coordination with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other accredited women’s groups to prepare the national campaign for the public awareness of the proposed Act.
“Upon the enactment of the bill, Metro Manila enforcers and the local unit enforcers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for other provinces shall be deputized as Anti-Sexual Harassment Enforcers (A-SHE) to apprehend harassers and enforce the law provided that they have undergone Gender Sensitivity Training,” she noted.
Under the proposed Act, the PCW, DILG, and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) shall be in-charge for oversight of the law and shall formulate policies as needed for the strict implementation of the measure, she said.
“The bill is anchored on the principles of respect and equality, and shall benefit all Filipinos regardless of gender and/or gender orientation,” Garin said, citing that the bill is not only focused on women.
Under the proposed Act, gender-based street and public spaces harassment includes cat-calling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, misogynistic and sexist slurs, persistent uninvited comments or gestures on a person’s appearance, relentless requests for personal details, statements of sexual comments or suggestions, or any advances, whether physical or verbal, that is unwanted and has threatened one’s personal space and physical safety.
While, street harassment is defined as harassment performed in schools, churches, restaurants, malls, public washrooms, bars, internet shops, public markets, transportation terminals, public utility vehicles, sidewalks, or alleys, aside from others.
Online sexual harassment, as defined under the bill includes the use of information and communications technology to terrorize and intimidate victims through physical, psychological, and emotional threats, as well as unwanted sexual and sexist remarks or comments online.
The bill provides that those who commit gender-based street and public spaces harassment shall be penalized, depending on the gravity and frequency of the crime, with: a community service inclusive of attendance to a Gender Sensitivity Seminar to be conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP); imprisonment; or a fine of P10,000 up to P500,000.