Thursday, April 18, 2024

House bill on ?safe online space? hurdles 2nd reading

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading House Bill 8794 or the proposed “Safe Street, Public and Online Spaces Act,” which seeks to define gender-based street, public spaces and online sexual harassment, to provide protective measures as well as prescribe penalties for violators.

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As defined in the bill, principally authored by Siquijor representative Ramon V.A. Rocamora, gender-based street and public spaces harassment includes cat-calling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, misogynistic and sexist slurs, persistent uninvited comments or gestures on a person’s appearance, relentless requests for personal details, statements of sexual comments or suggestions, or any advances, whether physical or verbal, that is unwanted and has threatened one’s personal space and physical safety.

Acts constitutive of street harassment are those performed in schools, churches, restaurants, malls, public washrooms, bars, Internet shops, public markets, transportation terminals, public utility vehicles, sidewalks, or alleys, among others.

Meanwhile, online sexual harassment includes the use of information and communications technology to terrorize and intimidate victims through physical, psychological, and emotional threats, as well as unwanted sexual and sexists remarks or comments online.

The measure stipulates that individuals who commit gender-based street and public spaces harassment shall be penalized, depending on the gravity and frequency of the crime, with (a) a community service inclusive of attendance to a Gender Sensitivity Seminar to be conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP), (b) imprisonment, or (c) a fine of P10,000 up to P500,000.

It further provides that if the harasser is a juridical person, its license or franchise shall be automatically deemed revoked. An alien who will violate the law shall be subject to deportation proceedings after serving sentence and payment of fines.

If the offense is committed by a minor, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) shall take the necessary disciplinary measures, as provided for under Republic Act 9344 or the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006.”

A court of law shall issue an order directing the perpetrator to stay away from the victim, or from the residence, school, place of employment or any place frequented by the offended person.

Victims may also avail of appropriate remedies as provided for under the law, as well as psychological counseling services with the aid of the local government unit (LGU) and the DSWD, in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW).

HB 8794 mandates the Women and Children’s desks in all police stations to attend to all complaints, and to coordinate with Anti-Sexual Harassment Enforcers (A-SHE) on the streets, security guards in privately-owned spaces that are open to the public, anti-sexual harassment officers in government and private offices or schools in the enforcement of the proposed law.

The PCW shall take the lead in a national campaign for the awareness of this measure. It shall work with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and duly accredited women’s groups to ensure that all LGUs participate in a sustained information campaign, as well as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to ensure an online campaign that reaches a wide audience of Filipino internet-users.

The bill also provides for the establishment of a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee, which shall be in-charge of monitoring its implementation and reviewing its promulgated implementing rules and regulations.

The bill is co-authored by Reps. Tom Villarin (Party-list, AKBAYAN) and Michelle Antonio (Party-list, AGBIAG), among others. — Molie Gonzales


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