Smacking or chastising children is now a crime in the Philippines


Smacking a child — or even just causing them to “ foolish in front of the public” — is now a criminal offence in the Philippines.

The Senate today (Monday, October 8) approved Bill 1477 which includes wide-ranging measures to ban the corporal punishment of children.

The bill, or the Positive Discipline of Children Act, seeks to protect minors from all forms of physical and mental violence by prohibiting “beating, kicking, slapping or lashing on any part of a child’s body, with or without the use of an instrument”.

It also seeks to prohibit verbal attacks, including intimidation or threats, swearing or cursing, ridiculing or denigrating a child or “making him foolish in front of his peers or the public”.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, chairwoman of the committee on women, children, family relations and gender and one of the bill’s sponsors, welcomed its passage. She said the measure seeks to develop ways give parents and guardians “adequate parenting tools and learning resources for a non-violent way of disciplining children”.

“Corporal punishment, while seemingly benign, poses a serious danger not only because of its prevalence in our households and communities but because of its appearance of inoffensiveness,” she said.

For a first offence, a written citation from the barangay [village] will be given to the parent, guardian or concerned adult, ordering him or her to stop and refrain from using corporal punishment. A mediation and reconciliation meeting would then be held.

For a second offence, another citation would be given along with an order to attend counselling and a “positive discipline seminar”.

For a third offence, the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children would initiate and file the necessary complaint against the perpetrator.

This could lead the court to suspend his or her “parental authority” based on provisions in The Family Code of the Philippines.

Also passed today, was a bill to outlaw catcalling and other forms of street-based harassment.

Bill 1326, or the “Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017”, seeks to penalise “catcalling, wolf-whistling, cursing, leering, groping, persistent requests for name and contact details and the use of words tending to ridicule on the basis of actual or perceived sex, gender expression or sexual orientation and identity in public spaces”.

Senator Hontiveros was the principal author of this bill also.

She hailed the passage of the measure calling it “a major push back” against what she called the “growing culture of misogyny and sexism in the country”.

As we have previously reported, verbal violations could be penalised with fines of up to 3,000 pesos and arrest of up to 30 days.

First offenders would also be forced to sit through an eight-hour “Gender Sensitivity Seminar” conducted by the Philippine National Police.

Medium violations are expected to include making “offensive body gestures” and flashing. The penalty for these acts could be a fine of up to 5,000 pesos and imprisonment of up to six months.

Stalking as as “light and medium violations accompanied by touching, pinching and brushing against the body of a person” could incur a 10,000 peso fine and six months in prison.

The new laws would be enforced by “Anti-Sexual Harassment Enforcers”. These officers would have the power of arrest, and could immediately impose fines or issue community service orders.

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