Bicam ratifies Safe Spaces Act

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Rep. Michelle Antonio, together with the members of the House and Senate Committees on Women and Gender Equality, present the signed bicameral report approving the Safe Spaces Bill which will aid in the battle against sexual harassment. (Agbiag)

The House of Representatives and Senate have ratified the bicameral conference report for the Safe Spaces Bill which seeks to penalize gender-based sexual harassment in streets, public and online spaces, workplaces and educational institutions.

The bicameral committee composed of Rep. Michelle Antonio of AGBIAG Party-list, Rep. Tom Villarin of Akbayan Party-list, Rep. Ramon Rocamora of the Lone District of Siquijor, Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy of BH Party-list, Senator Risa Hontiveros, and Senator Win Gatchalian gathered Wednesday morning at the Senate to sign the report.

The report was ratified in the afternoon plenary sessions of the two chambers.

“This bill is long overdue. Sexual harassment happens everywhere on a daily basis. It is high time we put a stop to the ‘kabastusan,’” said Antonio, one of the principal authors of the bill.

She pointed out that she really pushed for this bill to include online sexual harassment.

“During the first committee hearing for this bill, I demonstrated to the members of the committee how disturbing and prevalent online sexual harassment is. I showed them the Facebook pages where pictures of women, and even children, are being shared without their consent, as well as the highly offensive and degrading comments of other Facebook users on said pictures,” Antonio said.

Antonio added that she believes everyone must feel safe not only in streets and public spaces, but also online.

This bill penalizes offenses like catcalling, wolf-whistling and making misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs. It deputizes anti-sexual harassment enforcers (A-SHEs) to receive complaints on the street and immediately apprehend a perpetrator if caught in the act.

“What we want to achieve with this legislative measure is a behavior shift. Wala nang bastusan. So when the A-SHEs apprehend harassers and they get fined for it, they learn from that and become unlikely to repeat the same offense. With these steps, I am positive we can make everyone feel safer in all spaces,” she added.

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