President Duterte signs law against ‘gender-based sexual harassment’

gender-based sexual harassment

Image from a petition launched in 2016 calling for the implementation of an anti-harassment law. It attracted 149 signatures.

President Duterte has signed into law a bill penalising gender-based sexual harassment such as catcalling and wolf-whistling in public places.

The president signed Republic Act 11313 or Safe Spaces Act on April 17. Today (Monday, July 15), for the first time, a copy of the bill has been made public.


As we previously reported, the bill was first proposed by Senator Risa Hontiveros in February 2017.

Under the law, gender-based public sexual harassment is defined as “any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person regardless of the motive for committing such action or remarks”.

Actions done in streets and public spaces that can now be punished under the law include:

  • Catcalling
  • Wolf-whistling
  • Leering and intrusive gazing
  • Taunting, cursing, unwanted invitations
  • Misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist slurs
  • Persistent uninvited comments or gestures on a person’s appearance
  • Relentless requests for personal details such as name, contact and social media details or destination
  • Use of words, gestures or actions that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation, identity and/or expressing
  • Persistent telling of sexual jokes
  • Use of sexual names, comments, and demands
  • Any statement that has made an invasion on a person’s personal space or threatens the person’s sense of personal safety
  • Public masturbation or flashing of private parts
  • Groping 
  • Stalking
  • Sexual advances and statements mentioned above coupled with pinching or brushing against the body of the offend person
  • Touching, pinching, or brushing against the genitalia, face, arms, anus, groin, breasts, inner things, face, buttocks, or any part of the victim’s body

Meanwhile, forms of online harassment the law punishes include:

  • 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 the consent of the victims, any form of media that contains photos, voice, or video with sexual content
  • Unauthorized recording and sharing of any of the victim’s photos, videos, or any information online
  • Impersonating identities of victims online or posting lies about victims to harm their reputation
  • Filing false abuse reports to online platforms to silence victims

The new law requires establishments to coordinate with police immediately after sexual harassment is reported, make CCTV footage available when ordered by the court, and provide a “safe gender-sensitive environment” to encourage victims to report harassment at the first place.

They must also install clearly-visible warning signs against harassment including a hotline number in bold letters. Furthermore, they must designate at least one “anti-sexual harassment officer”.

Minors who break the new law will receive “disciplinary measures” from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The new law imposes penalties and fines ranging from 1,000 to 500,000 pesos including prison terms ranging from six days to six months.

As we have previously reported, similar rules already apply in Baguio, Quezon City and Metro Manila.

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