Hontiveros: Philippines closer to winning fight vs sexual harassment
MANILA, Philippines — The country is a step closer to winning the fight against sexual harassment after the Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed Safe Spaces Act, according to Senator Risa Hontiveros.
Hontiveros, who authored and sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said in a statement on Wednesday that the measure will impose stiffer penalties on people doing “unwanted sexual actions.”
“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, Transgender) persons – from bigotry and hatred we see rampant in our streets, schools and even workplaces today,” she said.
If enacted, the proposal will penalize acts such as “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”.
It will also amend R.A. 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, as sexual harassment “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” will also be penalized.
“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.
Unlike in advanced states where the #MeToo movement is prevalent, few cases of sexual harassment have been properly documented in the Philippines. According to the Center for Women Resources, a non-government organization (NGO), one woman or child is raped every 62 minutes, or roughly 24 individuals per day.
These numbers were obtained from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Women’s Desk, which indicates that unreported incidents were not factored in yet.
However, discussions about sexual abuse have been given attention, thanks to several social media forums — an avenue where victims can easily conceal their identities for privacy.
“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,” the senator said.
“We must show the world that such acts have no place in our society – not in the past, not now, not ever,” she added. /ee
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