The Congress has enacted Republic Act No. 11313 to be known as the Safe Spaces Act or the “Bawal Bastos Act” to address existing gaps and issues on equality, security, and safety of both women and men in private and public spaces. The Safe Spaces Act is intended to expand the scope of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 or Republic Act No. 7877.
Under the law, public spaces include streets and alleys, public parks, schools, building, malls, bars, restaurants, transportation terminals, public markets, spaces used as evacuation centers, government offices, public utility vehicles (PUVs), as well as private vehicles covered by app-based transport network services and other recreational spaces such as, but not limited to, cinema halls, theaters, and spas.
Catcalling and Stalking
The Safe Spaces Act also defines catcalling and stalking. Catcalling refers to unwanted remarks directed a person, commonly done in the form of wolf-whistling and misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist slurs. On the other hand, stalking pertains to conduct directed at a person involving the repeated visual or physical proximity, non-consensual communication, or a combination thereof that cause or will likely cause a person to fear for one’s own safety or the safety of others, or to suffer emotional distress.
Violations of the Safe Spaces Act
In general, a violation of the Safe Spaces Act can be committed in streets and public spaces; restaurants and cafes, bars and clubs, resorts and water parks, hotels and casinos, cinemas, malls, buildings and other privately owned places open to the public; PUVs; streets and public spaces committed by minors; online; in the workplace; and educational and training institutions.
Section 11 provides for a list of specific acts and their corresponding penalties, to wit:
- Cursing, wolf-whistling, catcalling, leering and intrusive gazing, taunting, cursing, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist slurs, persistent unwanted comments on one’s appearance, relentless requests for one’s personal details such as name, contact and social media details or destination, the use of words, gestures or actions that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation, identity and/or expression including sexist, homophobic, and transphobic statements and slurs, the persistent telling of sexual jokes, use of sexual names, comments and demands, and any statement that has made an invasion on a person’s personal space or threatens the person’s sense of personal safety.
Fine of Php 1,000.00 and community service of 12 hours inclusive of attendance to a Gender Sensitivity Seminar to be conducted by the PNP in accordance with the LGU and the PCW
Arresto menor (6 to 10 days) or a fine of Php 3,000.00
Arresto menor (11 to 30 days) and a fine of Php 10,000.0
- Making offensive body gestures at someone, and exposing private parts for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator with the effect of demeaning, harassing, threatening or intimidating the offended party including flashing of private parts, public masturbation, groping, and similar lewd actions.
Fine of Php 10,000.00 and community service of 12 hours inclusive of attendance to a Gender Sensitivity Seminar to be conducted by the PNP in accordance with the LGU and the PCW
Arresto menor (10 to 30 days) or a fine of Php 15,000.00
Arresto menor (1 day to 6 months) and a fine of Php 20,000.0
- Stalking, and any of the acts mentioned in Sec. 11 (a) and (b), when accompanied by touching, pinching or brushing against the body of the offended personal or any touching, pinching, or brushing against the genitalia, face, arms, groin, breasts, inner thighs, face, buttocks or any part of the victim’s body even when not accompanied by acts mentioned in Sec. 11 (a) and (b)
Arresto menor (11 to 30 days) or a fine of Php 30, 000.00 provided that it includes attendance in a Gender Sensitivity Seminar to be conducted by the PNP in accordance with the LGU and the PCW
Arresto mayor (1 month and 1 day to 6 months) or a fine of Php 50,000.00
Arresto mayor in its maximum period or a fine of Php 100,000.0
Gender-Based Online Harassment
Apart from these, the Safe Spaces Act also recognizes Gender-Based Online Sexual Harassment. It is defined as any online conduct targeted at a particular person that causes or is likely to cause another mental, emotional, or psychological distress, and fear of personal safety. These sexual harassment acts include unwanted sexual remarks and comments, threats, uploading or sharing or one’s photos without consent, video and audio recordings, cyberstalking and online identity theft.
Other examples of Gender-Based Online Sexual Harassment include:
- Acts that use information and communications technology in terrorizing and intimidating victims through physical, psychological, and emotional threats, unwanted sexual misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist remarks and comments online whether publicly or through direct and private messages,
- Invasion of victim’s privacy through cyberstalking and incessant messaging,
- Uploading and sharing without consent of the victim, any form of media that contains photos, voice, or video with sexual content,
- Any unauthorized recording and sharing of any of the victim’s photos, videos, or any information online,
- Impersonating identities of victims online,
- Posting lies about victims to harm their reputation, or
- Filing false abuse reports to online platforms to silence victims.
If any act considered as gender-based online sexual harassment is committed, such individual will be penalized with imprisonment: prision correccional in its medium period, with a fine ranging from P100,000 to P500,000. In case the perpetrator is a juridical person, such as a corporation, its franchise shall be automatically revoked and the individuals liable shall be the officers, including the editor or reporter in case of print media and the station manager, editor and broadcaster in case of broadcast media. Moreover, aliens shall be subjected to deportation proceedings after service of sentence and payment of fines.
Any record in violation of the provision on online sexual harassment shall be inadmissible in evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.
Qualified Gender-Based Streets, Public Spaces and Online Sexual Harassment
The punishable acts can be further qualified in particular cases. Heavier penalties are imposed on persons who commit the violations in a common carrier or a PUV where the offender was the driver and the victim was a passenger; where the offended party is a minor, a senior citizen or a person with disability, or a breastfeeding mother nursing her child; where the offended party is diagnosed with a mental problem tending to impair consent; where the offender is a member of the uniformed services and the violation was committed while the offender was in uniform; and where it was committed by a government employee in the premises of a government agency offering frontline services to the public.
Duties of Local Government Units and Other Government Agencies
Local Government Units (or LGUs) bear the primary responsibility in enforcing the provisions on gender-based streets and public spaces sexual harassment. LGUs have the duty to:
(a) Pass an ordinance that shall implement the Safe Spaces Act;
(b) Disseminate or post in conspicuous places a copy of the law and the corresponding ordinance;
(c) Provide measures to prevent gender-based sexual harassment in educational institutions, such as information campaigns and anti-sexual harassment seminars;
(d) Discourage and impose fines on acts of gender-based sexual harassment;
(e) Create an anti-sexual harassment hotline; and
(f) Coordinate with the Department of Local Government (DILG) for the implementation of the law.
Meanwhile, the DILG shall ensure the full implementation of the Act by inspecting LGUs if they have disseminated or posted in conspicuous places a copy of the Act and the corresponding ordinance, conducting and disseminating surveys and studies on best practices of LGUs in implementing the Act, and providing capacity-building and training activities to build the capability of local government officials to implement the Act in coordination with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), the Local Government Academy (LGA), and the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP).
Under the law, the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group is tasked to receive complaints and to develop online mechanisms for real-time reporting of gender-based online sexual harassment. The Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center of the DICT is also made to coordinate with the PNP to prepare appropriate and effective measures to monitor and penalize gender-based online sexual harassment.