Bill punishing catcalling up for Duterte's signature

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 13) — A bill punishing catcalling, wolf whistling, leering and other forms of sexual harassment is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, one the principal authors of the proposed Safe Streets, Workplaces and Public Spaces Act, said the measure will expand current anti-harassment laws to also cover violations committed in streets and other public spaces and by employees against employers.

"This law wants to really enhance our culture na maging gender-sensitive tayo, maging mas gender-equal yung lifestyle natin sa isa't-isa to promote the idea that gender-sensitive language is positive for the whole of society," Hontiveros told CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday.

Aside from catcalling and wolf whistling, the bill also seeks to punish leering, cursing, gender slurs, indecent exposure and stalking.

It also penalizes online sexual harassment, which includes acts that terrorize and intimidate individuals through physical, psychological and emotional threats, unwanted sexual and sexist remarks and comments online, cyber stalking and incessant messaging, and uploading and sharing any form of media containing sexual content without the person's consent.

Hontiveros said that under the final version of the bill agreed upon by the bicameral conference committee, those apprehended for cursing, wolf whistling, catcalling, and saying misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs for the first time will be fined ₱1,000 and will serve 12 hours in community service, which includes attendance to a gender sensitivity seminar.

Second-time offenders will be jailed for six to 10 days or fined ₱3,000, while third-time offenders will be jailed 11 to 30 days and fined ₱10,000.

The House sought to impose heftier penalties against catcalling and other related offenses, but the bicameral conference committee agreed on lower penalties following UN recommendations.

"The first offense of catcalling should be low because it should be immediately imposable upon apprehension in the street … And since this is the first time we are punishing catcalling, for first time offenders, our approach is behavior shift first," Hontiveros clarified in a text message to CNN Philippines.

Hontiveros said any person who feels offended by slurs and actions directed at them can simply report the incident to a police officer or any public safety officer who can immediately issue a violation ticket.

The measure has been approved on final reading by both chambers of Congress and has hurdled the bicameral conference committee last February 6.