Lawmaker proposes anti-street, online harassment bill

MANILA-- A lawmaker at the House of Representatives has proposed a measure seeking to protect Filipinos regardless of gender from harassment online, in the streets, and public spaces.

AGBIAG Party-list Rep. Michelle Antonio has filed House Bill No. 5956, which seeks to penalize street, public spaces, and online harassment.

Such harassment includes cat-calling, leering, stalking, flashing of private parts, unauthorized recording and sharing of any person's photos, videos, or any information online, and other similar unwanted and malicious sexual acts.

Antonio filed this measure in light of the deluge of secret Facebook groups where obscene photos and videos of women and children are shared among thousands of members.

She further noted that most photos and videos in said groups have been uploaded without consent from their owners, and even photos of children as young as 8 years old are traded to in these social media groups.

In a statement, Antonio said the final say shall come from the victim, who is at the receiving end of the remarks of the harasser, regardless whether or not the perpetrator admits of any ulterior motive to harass.

This provides teeth to the law by being pro-victim, to avoid sexual harassment cases resulting in victim-blaming or victim-shaming, she added.

Antonio cited a Social Weather Stations (SWS) report stating that 88 percent of Filipino women aged 18 to 24 years old have experienced sexual street harassment including wolf-whistling, catcalling, stalking, and rubbing, among others.

Furthermore, data from the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) revealed that there are already more than 160 cases of online gender-based violence in the country.

The unique features of HB 5956 are the imposition of heavier penalties, expedited grants of Permanent Protection Order and victim psychological counseling services, and covering online harassment.

Furthermore, the bill also proposes the creation of educational modules on the ills of street and online harassment to be provided to elementary up to college students.

The modules aim to teach the younger generation to be both respectful and gender-sensitive, and to change a culture that tolerates street harassment and resorts to victim-blaming.

Source: Philippine News Agency