President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the so-called “Bawal Bastos” law, which aims to punish catcalling and other gender-based harassment in public spaces and online.
Duterte signed Republic Act 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act on April 17, but the information was released to the media only on Monday.
“It is the policy of the state to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights. It is likewise the policy of the state to recognize the role of women in nation-building and ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men,” stated the new law.
“The state also recognizes that both men and women must have equality, security, and safety not only in private, but also on the streets, public spaces, online, workplaces, and educational and training institutions,” it added.
According to the Safe Spaces Act, actions or deeds considered as gender-based street and public spaces sexual harassment are committed through unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person, regardless of the motive.
These acts include catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs, persistent uninvited comments or gestures on a person’s appearance; relentless requests for personal details, statement of sexual comments and suggestions; public masturbation or flashing of private parts, groping, or any unwanted advances.
It also enumerated that gender-based online sexual harassment includes acts that use the information and communications technology in terrorizing and intimidating victims through physical, psychological, and emotional threats, unwanted sexual misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist remarks and comments online.
Likewise deemed as sexual harassment under the new law are the invasion of privacy through cyberstalking and incessant messaging, uploading and sharing without consent of any unauthorized photos, videos or information, impersonating identities of victims online or posting lies to harm their reputation, or filing false abuse on online platforms to silence victims.
Gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace includes unwanted sexual advances, requests or demands for sexual nature, whether done verbally, physically or through the use of technology, it noted.
For acts of cursing, wolf-whistling, catcalling, leering and intrusive gazing, taunting, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs, etc., a P1000 fine, 12 hours of community service and attendance to a gender sensitivity seminar will be imposed on first-time violators.
A six to 10 days imprisonment or a fine of P 3,000 will be imposed on second-time violators while third-time offenders will be sent to jail for up to 30 days and fined P10,000.
For acts such as making offensive body gestures and exposing private parts, public masturbation, groping and similar lewd actions, first offenders will be fined P10,000, ordered to do 12 hours of community service and compelled to attend a gender sensitivity seminar.
Second-time violators will be punished with 11 to 30 days imprisonment and a P 15,000-fine while third-time offenders will be imprisoned from one month and one day to six months and fined P20,000.
The new law also punishes stalking and brushing against any part of the victim’s body. On the first offense, violators will be fined P30,000, jailed 11 to 30 days, and required to attend a gender sensitivity seminar.
On the second offense, violators will be punished to pay a P 50,000-fine and face imprisonment of one month and one day up to six months; while on the third offense, violators will be slapped with a P 100,000-fine.
Meanwhile, the penalty of prision correcional in its medium period or a fine ranging from P 100,000 to P 500,000 will be imposed on any person found guilty of gender-based online harassment.
The law authorizes the Land Transportation Office to cancel the license of a person found guilty of committing sexual harassment in public utility vehicles. It also allows the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to suspend or revoke the franchise of operators who commit similar actions.
Employers are required to post a copy of the law in the workplace, as the new decree orders the Department of Labor and Employment and the Civil Service Commission to conduct yearly spontaneous inspections to ensure compliance of both employers and employees to the law.
Local Government Units were also directed to “bear primary responsibility in enforcing the provisions” of the Safe Spaces Act by passing ordinances to localize its applicability.
Schools are likewise mandated to adopt grievance procedures to facilitate the filing of complaints by students and faculty members who may violate this new law.