Hontiveros: “One step closer to victory” As Bicam Panel OKs Safe Spaces Act

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros today said that the country is a step closer to “a landmark victory in the fight against gender-based harassment,” after the proposed Safe Spaces Act was approved by a bicameral panel.

Hontiveros made the statement after the bicameral conference committee formally passed the reconciled version of the said measure, which will impose heftier penalties for “any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person” in public spaces.

“We are one step closer to enacting a long-sought and long-overdue law that will better protect Filipinos – especially women and LGBT persons – from bigotry and hatred we see rampant in our streets, schools and even workplaces today,” she said.

Hontiveros, who was the bill’s sponsor and author in the Senate, said that the measure will penalize acts which include “catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs, sexual comments and suggestions, public masturbation or flashing of private parts, groping, or any advances, whether verbal or physical, that are unwanted and threaten one’s sense of personal space and physical safety.”

Another key reform introduced by the measure is the expansion of the country’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 to penalize acts of sexual harassment committed “between peers and those committed to a superior officer by a subordinate, or to a teacher by a student, or to a trainer by a trainee.”

“This measure will plug gaps in the existing law so that persons at work, school or elsewhere can be confident that they will enjoy protection from all sorts of abusers and harassers – no matter who they are,” Hontiveros said.

With both the Senate and the House expected to formally ratify the bicameral report for the Safe Spaces Act this week, Hontiveros said she hopes that Malacanang will work urgently on the measure and submit it for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

“We must listen to the pleas and cries of every Filipino and Filipina who has suffered cat-calling, stalking, indecent gestures and other forms of sexual harassment. We must show the world that such acts have no place in our society – not in the past, not now, not ever,” Hontiveros said.