House OKs bill criminalizing catcalling, street harassment

Mara Cepeda
The bill would impose hefty fines and jail time for those caught sexually harassing others in public or online

NO TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT. Lawmakers back a bill that would punish catcalling and other forms of street and online harassment. Illustration by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on Monday, January 14, a bill that would punish catcalling and other forms of street harassment. 

Legislators approved on 3rd and final reading House Bill (HB) 8794 or the “Safe Street, Public and Online Spaces Act” with a vote of 208-0-0. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH

The bill seeks to tag as “crimes” different forms of gender-based street, public spaces, and online sexual harassment, which are committed “through any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person that result or will likely result [to] an invasion of the victim’s sense of personal safety, regardless of the motive for committing such action or remarks.” 

The Senate already approved its version of the measure in October 2018, which means the bill will now go to the bicameral conference committee so lawmakers can reconcile conflicting provisions of their versions.

What are the prohibited acts and the punishments? HB 8794 sets different penalties for specific violations.

For acts like cursing, wolf-whistling, catcalling, leering and intrusive gazing, taunting, cursing, unwanted invitations, misogynistic and sexist slurs, persistent unwanted comments on one’s appearance, relentless requests for one’s personal details, the use of words, gestures, or actions that ridicule on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation, identity, and expression, the persistent telling of sexual jokes, use of sexual names, comments, and demands, and any statement that has made an invasion on a person’s personal space or threatens the person’s sense of personal safety:

  • 1st offense: P10,000 fine or 12-hour community service, with mandatory attendance in a gender sensitivity seminar
  • 2nd offense: 1 day to 10 days in prison or P20,000 fine
  • 3rd offense: 11 to 20 days in prison or P30,000 fine

For acts like making offensive body gestures at someone and exposing private parts:

  • 1st offense: P30,000 fine and 12-hour community service with mandatory attendance in a gender sensitivity seminar
  • 2nd offense: 11 to 20 days in prison or P40,000 fine
  • 3rd offense: 4 to 6 months in prison or P50,000 fine 

For acts like stalking as well as offensive body gestures and exposure of private parts accompanied by touching, pinching, or brushing against the body of the offended person, or touching, pinching or brushing against the genitalia, face, arms, anus, groin, breasts, inner thighs, face, buttocks or any part of the victim’s body:

  • 1st offense: 11 to 20 days in prison or P100,00 fine, and mandatory attendance in a gender sensitivity seminar
  • 2nd offense: 2 to 4 months in prison or P150,000 fine
  • 3rd offense: 4 to 6 months in prison or P200,000 fine 

For gender-based online sexual harassment: 2 years to 4 years and 2 months in prison or P100,000 to P500,000 fine. – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.