Bicam approves bill imposing heftier penalties for ‘unwanted advances’ and harassment

Published February 6, 2019, 5:41 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Mario Casayuran

The country is a step closer to “a landmark victory in the fight against gender-based harassment” after the proposed Safe Spaces Act was approved by a bicameral panel, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said Wednesday.

Hontiveros issued the statement after the Senate-House of Representatives bicameral conference committee formally passed the reconciled version of the measure that imposes heftier penalties for “any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person” in public spaces.

(Win Gatchalian / MANILA BULLETIN)
(Win Gatchalian / MANILA BULLETIN)

“We are one step closer to enacting a long-sought and long-overdue law that will better protect Filipinos – especially women and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) persons – from bigotry and hatred we see rampant in our streets, schools and even workplaces today,” she said.

Hontiveros is the sponsor and author of the bill in the Senate.

She said that the measure would penalize acts which include “catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs, sexual comments and suggestions, public masturbation or flashing of private parts, groping, or any advances, whether verbal or physical, that are unwanted and threaten one’s sense of personal space and physical safety.”

Another key reform embedded in the measure is the expansion of the country’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 to penalize acts of sexual harassment committed “between peers and those committed to a superior officer by a subordinate, or to a teacher by a student, or to a trainer by a trainee.”

“This measure will plug gaps in the existing law so that persons at work, school or elsewhere can be confident that they will enjoy protection from all sorts of abusers and harassers – no matter who they are,” Hontiveros explained.

With both the Senate and the Lower House expected to formally ratify the bicameral report for the Safe Spaces Act this week, Hontiveros said she hopes that Malacanang would work urgently on the measure and submit it for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

“We must listen to the pleas and cries of every Filipino and Filipina who has suffered cat-calling, stalking, indecent gestures and other forms of sexual harassment. We must show the world that such acts have no place in our society – not in the past, not now, not ever,” she added.