Senate approves anti-catcalling bill

MANILAThe Senate on Monday passed on third and final reading a proposed measure seeking to protect women from catcalling and other forms of street-based harassment.

Senate Bill 1558 or the "Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017" seeks to penalize unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a person in a public place without their consent, and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation and identity.

These acts include, but not limited to, unwanted cursing, wolf-whistling, cat-calling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone's name, number or destination after clear refusal, persistent telling of sexual jokes, use of sexual names, comments and demands, flashing, public masturbation, groping, and stalking, among others.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, the bill's main author and sponsor, hailed the approval of the measure as a major push back against street-based sexual harassment.

She said street harassment is a daily reality for an overwhelming majority of Filipinas and members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.

Citing a 2016 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, Hontiveros noted that 88 percent of women aged 18-24 years old has experienced sexual harassment in the streets.

The approval of this bill would usher in better and safer streets and public spaceswhere nobody should be inwardly bracing themselves for harassment before they even enter specific streets and avoid certain spots; where no employee should dread going to work in fear of being the recipient of sexually charged comments; and where no girl or boy, man or woman, regardless of their clothes, dress or company will ever have to restrict their own mobility in fear of harassment or worst, Hontiveros said in her manifestation speech.

But more than that, the chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality said the bill's passage sends a strong signal to violators, perpetrators and apologists that their behavior and actions will not be tolerated and will not go unpunished.

After this, safe streets and public spaces shall be the new norm, and anything less than that would not be acceptable, she said.

We will take back the streets from nefarious miscreants and reclaim it so that everyone, regardless of what we are wearing, what time we are walking or where we are going, can walk or move freely without fear or apprehension, Hontiveros said.

SB 1588 defines what behavior and actions constitute gender-based street and public spaces harassment and their corresponding penalties.

These are categorized into light, medium and severe violations.

Light violations include cursing, wolf-whistling, cat-calling, leering; persistent requests for name and contact details; the use of words tending to ridicule on the basis of actual or perceived sex, gender expression, or sexual orientation and identity including sexist, homophobic and transphobic slurs; or the persistent telling of sexual jokes.

For light violations, first time offenders would be punished by a fine of PHP1,000, while a second offense shall be punished by six to ten days imprisonment or a fine of PHP2,000.

Meanwhile, a third offense shall be punished by 11 to 30-day jail term or a fine of PHP3,000.

Medium violations include making offensive body gestures at someone, exposing private parts for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator with the effect of demeaning, harassing, threatening or intimidating the offended party.

Under this category, the first offense shall be punished by a fine of PHP3,000; the second offense shall be punished by 11 to 30 days of imprisonment or a fine of PHP4,000; and the third offense shall be punished by one to six months imprisonment or a fine of PHP5,000.

On the other hand, severe violations include stalking; all the acts mentioned in light and medium violations, when accompanied by touching, pinching or brushing against the body of a person; or any touching, pinching, or brushing against the genitalia, anus, groin, breasts, inner thighs, face, or buttocks even when not accompanied by acts mentioned in the lighter violations.

Under this category, the first offense shall be punished by 11 to 30 days imprisonment or a fine of PHP4,000; the second offense shall be punished by one to six months of imprisonment or a fine of PHP5,000; and the third offense shall be punished by aresto mayor one to six months of imprisonment or a fine of PHP10,000.

Besides the fines, first time offenders in all the categories shall also have to attend a Gender Sensitivity Seminar by the Philippine National Police in coordination with the local government unit and the Philippine Commission on Women. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency