House Bill Aims to Penalize Catcalling and Wolf-Whistling

It passed the second reading in Congress.

(SPOT.ph) These days, the first thing a lot of people do when they wake up is go online to see if there's anything they might have missed while they were sleeping. After all, social media has become an integral part of modern life. Despite all the breakthroughs in the field of communication, however, it's also got a dark side. In the interest of providing a safer online space in the Philippines, Siquijor representative Ramon Rocamora authored House Bill 8794 or the proposed “Safe Street, Public, and Online Spaces Act," aiming to define sexual harassment in the Philippines, not just in physical, public spaces, but also online.

Recently hurdling past the second reading in the House of Representatives, the bill seeks to provide concrete definitions for gender-based harassment, providing protective measures and penalties for violators. To date, existing anti-sexual harassment measures in the Philippines only cover violations related to employment, education, or training environments.

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According to the proposed bill, using information and communication technology to terrorize victims through physical, psychological, and emotional threats counts as online sexual harassment. This means that if you ever get unwanted sexual and sexist comments online, you can report them and have the users penalized.

Catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, sexist slurs, requests for personal details, and sexual advances (whether physical or verbal), are just a few of the acts defined by the bill as street and public-space harassment, particularly when performed in malls, restaurants, bars, public utility vehicles, alleys, or other public places.

Depending on the gravity of the violation, as well as the frequency, violators may have to attend community service with mandatory gender-sensitivity seminars; face imprisonment; or pay a fine of P10,000 up to P500,000 if the bill is passed into law.

The proposed law also has provisions for when the harassment is committed by non-Filipino citizens, minors, or juridical people and the penalties applicable to them.

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