House OKs on final reading bill on gender-based harassment
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives unanimously approved on Monday a bill seeking to punish catcalling and other gender-based harassment in public spaces and online.
With a vote of 208-0-0, the lower chamber approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 8794 — the “Safe Street, Public and Online Spaces Act.”
The bill, principally authored by Siquijor Rep. Ramon V.A. Rocamora, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin and AGBIAG Rep. Michelle Antonio, defines gender-based street and public spaces harassment to include `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.”
Violators will be slapped by punishment ranging from community service, inclusive of attendance to a Gender Sensitivity Seminar to be conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP); to imprisonment to a fine between P10,000 and P500,000.
If the harasser is a juridical person, his or her license or franchise will be automatically deemed revoked, according to the bill.
An alien who violates the measure will also be subject to deportation proceedings after serving sentence and payment of fines.
HB 8794 also gives victims the chance to avail of appropriate remedies, as well as psychological counseling services with the aid of the local government unit and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, in coordination with the Department of Health and the Philippine Commission on Women.
The measure also requires Women and Children’s desks in all police stations to attend to all complaints and to coordinate with Anti-Sexual Harassment Enforcers on the streets, security guards in privately-owned spaces that are open to the public, anti-sexual harassment officers in government and private offices or schools in the enforcement of the measure.
Villarin lauded the bill’s passage, saying it is a “long-overdue and highly needed security measure for all Filipino families, whose members have been repeatedly cat-called, whistled at, groped, and victimized by other acts of sexual harassment in public spaces.”
Passing this bill, Villarin said, would also send a strong message to everyone: “No means no, whether at home, at school, in the workplace, or in public places.”
“There is no room for sexual harassment–whether in actions, words, or gestures–in this day and age,” he added. /atm