President Rodrigo R. Duterte

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill which will impose heftier penalties for gender-based sexual harassment including catcalling and wolf-whistling in public spaces.

Duterte signed the Republic Act 11313 of Safe Spaces Act on April 17, 2019, a copy of which was given to media on Monday (July 15).

Under the law, crimes of gender-based streets and public spaces sexual harassment are committed through “any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person regardless of the motive for committing such action or remarks.”

"Gender-based streets and public spaces sexual harassment includes 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 advances, whether verbal or physical that is unwanted and has threatened one's sense of personal space such as alleys, roads, sidewalks, and parks,” the law read.

“Acts constitutive of gender-based streets and public spaces sexual harassment are those performed in buildings, schools, churches, restaurants, malls, public washrooms, bars, internet shops, public markets, transportation terminals or public utility vehicles,” it added.

Meanwhile, gender-based online sexual harassment includes using information and communications technology in terrorizing and intimidating victims through physical, psychological, and emotional threats, unwanted comments online whether publicly or through direct and private messages, invasion of victim's privacy through cyberstalking and incessant messaging, uploading and sharing without the consent of the victim, any form of media that contains photos, voice, or video with sexual content, and unauthorized recording and sharing of any of the victim's photos, videos, or any information online, among others.

The new law requires establishments to immediately coordinate with local police authorities immediately after gender-based sexual harassment is reported, make CCTV footage available when ordered by the court, and provide a safe gender-sensitive environment to encourage victims to report gender-based sexual harassment at the first instance.

All public spaces must install in their establishments clearly-visible warning signs against gender-based public spaces sexual harassment including the anti-sexual harassment hotline number in bold letters.

It should also designate at least one anti-sexual harassment officer by deputizing security guards to receive gender-based sexual harassment complaints.

If the sexual harassment was committed in public utility vehicles, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) may cancel the license of perpetrators found to have committed the acts.

In case the offense is committed by a minor, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) must undertake disciplinary measures.

Local government units (LGUs) will have the responsibility to pass ordinances to localize the applicability of this act, provide measures to prevent gender-based sexual harassment in educational institutions; create an anti-sexual harassment hotline among others.

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and local units of Philippine National Police (PNP) must also deputize its forces to be Anti-Sexual Harassment Enforcers (ASHE) to receive complaints on the street and immediately apprehend perpetrators.

The new law imposes penalties and fines from ranging from PHP1,000 to PHP500,000 including prison terms ranging from six days to six months. (PNA)