Catcalling and other acts of harassment could earn offenders up to six months jail, according to a new law being considered for Manila.
Draft Ordinance Number 7857 or “An Ordinance Penalizing Catcalling and Other Forms of Public Sexual Harassment” has now passed its first reading with the city council.
Councillor Krystle Bacani, the author of the ordinance, said violators could be imprisoned for up to six months and fined up to 10,000 pesos.
Offenders would also have to attend a compulsory “gender sensitivity seminar” organised by the police and the Philippine Commission on Women.
Cllr. Bacani said that all forms of sexual harassment — such as swearing, wolf whistling, catcalling and leering — should be banned as they “can lead to more serious offences”.
“They say that it’s a compliment when one is called ‘sexy’,” she said. “This mindset is dangerous because it can escalate to more serious sexual offences.”
City mayor Joseph Estrada has expressed support for the draft ordinance, saying that no one had the right to make women fear for their safety.
“We have no tolerance for words or actions which tend to insult or cause fear in others, especially the woman,” he said.
“I express my utmost admiration for women who are finally speaking up against this kind of behaviour.”
Other catcalling laws
In February — on Valentine’s Day — we reported on a similar law being considered for the country as a whole. As well as penalising “street harassment”, the bill proposed by Senator Risa Hontiveros also proposed cracking down on homophobic and transphobic abuse.
Furthermore, in October we reported on a similar city-wide ban being considered for Baguio. However, in both cases the bills are yet to be passed.
Chang Jordan, the national programme officer for the UN’s Women Safe Cities Global Initiatives welcomed the latest proposed bill.
“We are happy that the Philippines is one of the 23 cities all over the world to address sexual harassment in public places,” he said.
“Eighty per cent of men say they will be afraid of breaking the law because there is a sanction. That is the message we want to spread – that it there is punishment for breaking that law.”
A petition launched on change.org party last year, entitled “Stop catcalling and other forms of street-level sexual harassment against women” [in the Philippines] closed after attracting a grand total of 149 signatures.
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