Philippine leader signs law punishing sexual harassment

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president has signed a bill into law penalising a range of acts of sexual harassment including catcalling, wolf-whistling and persistent telling of sexual jokes, which pro-women’s groups have accused him of committing.

Philippine officials released on Monday a copy of Republic Act 11313, known as the “Safe Spaces Act”, which Duterte signed in April. The reason for the delay in its public release was not immediately clear.

The bill’s main author, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, has called the law a “massive victory” against a growing culture of rude sexist actions.

“This is a big victory and a major push back against the growing ‘rude culture’ in our streets and communities,” Hontiveros said.

“With this law, we will reclaim our streets from sexual harassers and gender bigots and make public spaces safe for all.”

The law defines a range of offensive acts, including catcalling, wolf-whistling, intrusive gazing, cursing, misogynistic acts, sexist slurs and persistent telling of sexual jokes in public, including in streets, workplaces, vehicles, schools, recreational areas, bars or online.

Other offences include stalking, exposing “private parts, groping or any advances, whether verbal or physical, that is unwanted and has threatened one’s sense of personal space and physical safety.”

Restaurants, bars, cinemas and other places of recreation are required to install clearly visible warning signs against would-be violators, including a hotline number to allow rapid reporting of offences, and to designate an officer to receive complaints or apprehend perpetrators.

“It is the policy of the state to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights,” the law said.