Senator Risa Hontiveros filed this Tuesday, February 14, 2017, Valentine’s Day a bill which aims to protect women and members of the LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community from verbal sexual harassment in public. Once approved as law, it will expand Republic Act 7877, otherwise known as Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.
“I filed the bill 23 years since the passage of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law which is limited to the workplace and to superior-subordinate relationships.” Sen. Risa Hontiveros said, referring to Senate Bill No. 1326 also known as the “Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017.”
“It is deplorable that our women, young and adult, are subjected to this kind of abuse. One may think it is a compliment to catcall, or to leer, but such unwanted comments, gestures and actions forced on a person in a public space is actually sexist and offensive,” The Liberal Party (LP) senator added, who has three daughters and a son.
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According to Sen. Hontiveros, 3 out of 5 women have experienced street harassment in Quezon City alone. She also cited an instance when a female student from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) was allegedly groped in a public utility vehicle by a fellow student, but the said school of the suspect allegedly sided with him, and shamed the victim.
Among the light violations stated in the the lady senator’s bill includes cursing, wolf-whistling, catcalling, leering, and persistent requests for name and contact details of the complainant; telling malicious green jokes, and homophobic, and transphobic slurs or use of words that tend to insult or ridicule the sexual orientation of a person.
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On the other hand, touching, pinching or brushing against the private parts such as breasts and buttocks, even when not accompanied by light violations are considered as severe violations. Under the said bill, anyone who has been proven guilty of “severe violations” shall be imprisoned for six (6) months and will pay a fine of up to P10,000.
And as expected, Sen. Hontiveros mentioned an occasion when President Rodrigo Duterte himself was accused of catcalling a female local reporter. On May 31, 2016, he interrupted GMA7 reporter Mariz Umali in a press conference while asking him a question, and whistled. In his defense, President Duterte said his act was not act of disrespecting women.