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Safe Spaces Law penalizes those who make rape jokes

The Safe Spaces Act or Bawal Bastos law, which penalizes those who commit sexual harassment in public places, also covers those who make rape jokes, one of the authors of the law said Wednesday.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros made the statement in connection with the passage of the new measure which penalizes gender-based street and public spaces harassment. This 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 advance, whether physical or verbal, that is unwanted and has threatened one’s personal space and physical safety.

The penalty for offenders, depending on the gravity of offense, ranges from community service inclusive of attendance to a Gender Sensitivity Seminar, jail time, or a fine of P10,000 up to P500,000.

“Rape jokes directed to women or any gender are covered under this law because rape jokes are sexual statements na nag-eenganyo ng karahasan at pang-aabuso,” Hontiveros said.

“Covered ito [rape jokes] ng spirit of the law. Lahat ng mamamayan, covered nito, kasama ang public officials, pati ang Presidente, sa adbokasiya [na isinusulong] ng batas,” Hontiveros added.

During the graduation ceremony over the week, President Rodrigo Duterte joked about pardoning the underclassmen of PMA Mabalasik Class of 2019 who commit rape.

In May 2017, the President also joked that soldiers deployed in Marawi to rid the area of terrorists from the Maute group could commit rape because he would have their backs.

Prior to being elected President, then-Davao City Mayor Duterte joked about the gang rape and murder of an Australian missionary who had been taken hostage, saying that as mayor he should have gone first.

When 'compliments' cross into harassment

Hontiveros added that the law is necessary because complimenting someone about their physical attributes is not necessarily harmless if the one receiving the compliment feels unsafe as a result.

“Minsan, ganyan, nag-appreciate lang raw sila. Pero ano ang dating noon [sa binibigyan ng appreciation]? 'Yung iba, hindi maganda ang nagiging pakiramdam kasi unwanted attention na, tapos paulit ulit pa,” Hontiveros pointed out.

“No means no. Kapag nanghihimasok na sa personal space at pakiramdam ng biktima ay hindi na siya malayang kumilos sa sariling niyang siyudad, 'yun ang tutugunan ng Bawal Bastos Law,” she added.

Under the new law, victims can call the attention of the police or a deputized authority deployed in the area where the harassment happened.

The police or the police's deputized authority will then issue a ticket to the alleged offender, similar to a traffic violation ticket. which will trigger an investigation.

“Under the Anti-Sexual Harassment law passed in 1995, ang covered lang ay 'yung mga gumagawa ng abuso na superior sa kanilang subordinate, dapat tukoy ang lugar kung saan nangyari gaya ng opisina o eskwelahan, at dapat magkakilala. Dito sa ating bagong batas, sakop kahit among peers, hindi kailangang magkakilala at puedeng kasuhan kahit nangyari sa public places,” Hontiveros added. — BM, GMA News