The House of Representatives just passed House Bill (HB) 8794 or the “Safe Street, Public and Online Spaces Act”. The Senate previously approved a version of this bill last October 2018. All that’s left is for the two houses to meet in a bicameral conference before the bill goes to the President for final approval.
The “Safe Street, Public, and Online Spaces Act” basically penalizes all forms of sexual harassment. Its purpose is to “define gender-based street and public harassment, providing protective measures and prescribing penalties.” It protects against “any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person that result or will likely result [to] an invasion of the victim’s sense of personal safety, regardless of the motive for committing such action or remarks.”
What this basically means is that it penalizes harassment done on the basis of any gender. It also intervenes depending on the damage that the action creates rather than the motive. So it doesn’t matter if someone is “just” catcalling for fun, or saying a rape joke to be “funny”, as long as the victim feels that their personal safety was harmed.
The specific acts which the bill responds to include but are not limited to the following: catcalling; leering and intrusive gazing; unwanted invitations; misogynistic and sexist slurs; relentless requests for one’s personal details; the use of words, gestures, or actions that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation, identity, and expression; the persistent telling of sexual jokes; use of sexual names, comments, and demands. These are penalized by:
- 1st offense: P10,000 fine or 12-hours community service, with mandatory attendance in a gender sensitivity seminar
- 2nd offense: 1 day to 10 days in prison or P20,000 fine
- 3rd offense: 11 to 20 days in prison or P30,000 fine
An individual forcibly exposing their private parts to others (flashing, public masturbation, etc.), forcibly groping others, or making offensive body gestures will incur the following penalties:
- 1st offense: P30,000 fine and 12-hours community service with mandatory attendance in a gender sensitivity seminar
- 2nd offense: 11 to 20 days in prison or P40,000 fine
- 3rd offense: 4 to 6 months in prison or P50,000 fine
Stalking and forms of physical sexual harassment will be penalized through:
- 1st offense: 11 to 20 days in prison or P100,00 fine, and mandatory attendance in a gender sensitivity seminar
- 2nd offense: 2 to 4 months in prison or P150,000 fine
- 3rd offense: 4 to 6 months in prison or P200,000 fine
Lastly, Gender-based online sexual harassment will be penalized according to the discretion of the court. The punishment will range from 24 months to 50 months in prison or P100,000 to P500,000 fine.
Do you think the Philippines needs this bill? Share with us your stories of being catcalled or sexually harassed in public