EDITORIAL - Safe spaces

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Safe spaces

Catcalling, wolf-whistling, leering and similar acts in public areas and workplaces had been banned in some cities under local ordinances. But now the ban is in effect all over the country, after the landmark Safe Streets, Public Places and Workplace or Safe Spaces Act lapsed into law on April 21.

Also called the “Bawal Bastos” law, the measure has been welcomed by women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, who are among the top targets of such forms of harassment, although boys and men can also become victims. The law also covers related forms of harassment online.

As in other laws in this country, of course, it will be even more welcome if the Safe Spaces Act can be properly enforced. Violators face fines ranging from P1,000 to P100,000, and they may be required to undergo gender sensitivity sessions. Complaints can be filed with the police and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

Police and MMDA personnel must ensure that the complaints are taken seriously and the victims provided assistance, unlike in the case of those who dare to seek help from barangay officials for cases of domestic violence. Although mandated by law to help, there have been numerous reports of barangay personnel refusing to step into domestic feuds even if women and children suffer from various forms of abuse.

There is the greater challenge of effecting change in the mindset and culture where sexism, as women’s groups stress, remains deeply ingrained despite all the laws prohibiting gender discrimination and harassment. It’s a culture that sees rape as a joking matter, with President Duterte himself under constant fire for making such jokes.

The President did not sign the Safe Spaces Act, but he did allow it to lapse into law. It is a significant step along a tortuous path toward making the streets and workplaces safe from lewd remarks and similar forms of harassment.



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