Duterte signs law that penalizes sexual harassment

President Rodrigo Duterte kissing an Overseas Filipino Worker in Seoul. <i> Photo: ABS-CBN News.  </i>
President Rodrigo Duterte kissing an Overseas Filipino Worker in Seoul. Photo: ABS-CBN News.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, infamous for his sexist comments, has signed into law a bill that imposes harsher penalties for “gender-based” sexual harassment in public spaces, offices, schools, public utility vehicles, and online.

Republic Act 11313, officially called the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act but casually referred to as the Anti-Bastos Bill (Anti-Pervert Bill), was signed on April 17 but it was only released to the media yesterday.

It seeks to prevent gender-based sexual harassment from occurring in streets, public places, online workplaces, and educational and training institutions. Sexual harassment is defined as uninvited sexual actions or remarks against a person, regardless of the motive for committing the actions or remarks.

The new law specified punishable acts like cursing, wolf-whistling, catcalling, leering and intrusive gazing, taunting, unwanted invitations, public masturbation, flashing of private parts, and groping.

It prohibits misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist slurs; persistent unwanted comments on one’s appearance; and relentless requests for one’s personal details such as name, contact and social media details or destination.

It will also punish those who use words, gestures, or actions that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, identity, or expression.

Public spaces include parks, public restrooms, malls, and bars. Sexual harassment will also be monitored in offices and schools. Online comments that are misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist in nature are prohibited. Cyberstalking and uploading or sharing a person’s photos, videos, or information without their consent is also not allowed.

Punishment for violators of sexual harassment in public areas is between PHP1,000 (US$19.62) to PHP100,000 (US$1,961.66). Violators may also be required to attend a gender sensitivity seminar or be jailed for up to 1 month. Public utility vehicle drivers may also get their license and franchise revoked.

Those who commit online sexual harassment will be fined anywhere from PHP100,000 (US$1,961.66) to PHP500,000 (US$9,808.29), face prision correcional (6 months and 1 day to 6 years) in its medium period, or both.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, a principal author of the bill, earlier called the bill’s passing as a “massive victory” and a “major push back” against a culture of disrespect.

News of Duterte signing the law comes as the president continues to utter sexist remarks himself. In May, he cracked unfunny jokes during the Philippine Military Academy’s (PMA) graduation rites in Baguio City and pretended to pardon cadets for committing rape.

Of course, that’s nothing compared to that time during his presidential campaign in 2016 when he said that he wanted to be first in the gang rape of an Australian missionary. He also said in December that he inappropriately “touched” their family maid when he was a teenager, a remark his spokesman said was a “concocted story.”

Perhaps his most public display of sexual harassment was when he kissed a married Overseas Filipino Worker on stage as “payment” for a book he was giving away at an event in Seoul in June last year.

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