sexual harassment in PH

Proposed ordinance punishes catcalling, online sexual harassment in Mandaue City

John Sitchon
'We look forward to making Mandaue a city that is free from gender-based sexual harassment,' say the authors of the proposed Safe Spaces Ordinance of Mandaue

Mandaue City is one step closer to punishing catcalling and online sexual harassment after the city council passed the proposed Safe Spaces Ordinance on first reading.

The proposed Safe Spaces Ordinance of Mandaue, which seeks to enforce at a local level Republic Act No. 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act, is authored by Councilors Cynthia Ceniza-Remedio and Marie Immaline Cortes-Zafra.

“We aim to ensure safe spaces for every citizen in Mandaue, and we look forward to making Mandaue a city that is free from gender-based sexual harassment,” the two councilors said.

The Safe Spaces Ordinance seeks to address the gaps and issues on equality, security, and safety of women, men, and those with different gender identities and expressions in both public and digital spaces.

Under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 11313, all local government units are mandated to pass an ordinance to enforce the law at the local level.

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In late 2019, Cebu City passed a similar ordinance called the Bawal Bastos ordinance that penalizes acts like unwanted invitations, sexual comments or gestures, stalking, persistent telling of sexual jokes, and even intrusive gazing or leering.

Mandaue City’s version emphasizes “catcalling” as directing unwanted remarks or unsolicited acts towards an individual, more commonly done in the form of wolf-whistling, and even misogynistic, sexual slurs.

Also included is the prohibited act of “Gender-Based Online Sexual Harassment” which refers to physical, psychological, and emotional threats; and unwanted sexual misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist remarks and comments online, whether done publicly or through direct and private messages.

This also includes the invasion of privacy through cyberstalking and incessant messaging.

To combat these, the ordinance would set up measures that include the installation of visible warning signs against gender-based sexual harassment in public spaces and an anti-sexual harassment hotline that would help encourage victims to report as soon as they experience harassment.

To further promote awareness, the proposed ordinance directs the distribution of educational materials, holding of anti-sexual harassment orientations and seminars, and training on gender sensitivity and other relevant topics.

A Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) would be created to help investigate and address complaints of gender-based sexual harassment.

Under the proposed Safe Spaces ordinance, violators face fines or jail time, or both, depending on the offense.

“The perpetrators should be penalized. Dili jud mo prevail ang mga daotan nga binuhatan sa atong mga katawhan (The evil acts of people will never prevail)!,” Remedio said in an online message.

As of posting, the councilors are waiting for the committee report from the Committee on Women, Family and Children, and the Committee on Laws. 

After the reports would be approved and released, the proposed ordinance will then be forwarded for second and final reading in the upcoming city council sessions. –

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