Mandaluyong LGU passes ‘safe spaces’ policy vs gender-based sexual harassment

The Mandaluyong City local government passed a local ordinance that aims to protect individuals of all genders in the city from sexual harassment in streets and other public spaces.

Ordinance No. 922, Series of 2023, or the “Safe Spaces Ordinance,” aims to “ensure that any public space, regardless of ownership and nature, is a safe space against gender-based sexual harassment.”

The ordinance is a localized policy in line with Republic Act No. 11313 or the “Safe Spaces Act", that includes mandates for local governments to provide protective measures and impose fines on acts of gender-based harassment in streets, public spaces, online, workplaces, and education or training institutions.

According to the ordinance, gender-based sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, catcalling, wolf-whistling, making unwanted advances, saying misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs or other derogatory remarks on the basis of their gender; exposing private parts for sexual gratification in order to demean, harass, threaten or intimidate the offended party (ie. flashing of genitals, public masturbation, groping, other lewd sexual acts); as well as stalking, touching, pinching, or brushing against any part of the victim’s body without consent.

Members of the City Ordinance Enforcement Division (COED), barangay officials, the Traffic Parking Management Department (TPMD), Mandaluyong police, and security guards of private-owned places or persons who have witnessed the crime are the designated enforcers of the ordinance.

They are tasked to receive complaints and apprehend perpetrators, especially if the suspects are caught in the act of committing the crime. The arrested suspects will be brought to the Women’s and Children’s Desk of the Mandaluyong police.

The suspects will be penalized according to the guidelines, considering the manner and degree of the crime, as stipulated in RA 11313. Depending on the severity and repetition of the crime by the perpetrators, they can be fined as much as P100,000.

The ordinance also demands owners of restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs, hotels, casinos, cinemas, malls and other privately-owned places that are open to the public to strictly adhere to the policy.

They are urged to install visible warnings signs against sexual harassment in their establishments, put CCTV cameras in the premises that can be accessed by the victim and the police for investigation, designate anti-sexual harassment officers to handle the complaints, and develop protocols in cases where harassment occurs within their establishment.

An Anti-Sexual Harassment (ASH) Desk will also be established, along with an anti-sexual harassment hotline, that will respond to reports, record cases, facilitate referrals of cases, and assist in the development of policies to improve protocols against gender-based violence, in coordination with the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO).

The ordinance also requires the conduct of gender sensitivity training and orientations for the enforcers of the ordinance, and other concerned educational and government institutions.

The ordinance was approved and signed by Mayor Benjamin Abalos Sr. on Tuesday, May 23.