Cat-callers, Beware: Street Harassment and Cat-calling Now a Criminal Offense

Photo from preen.inquirer.net

Here in the Philippines and in many other places around the globe, a very common problem (especially for women) encountered by people on the streets is sexual harassment.

In 2016, it was reported by UN Women that the resulting findings of a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed that in the Philippines, 3 out of 5 women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime
[read the full report here]. It was also reported that 70% of sexual harassment offenses came from complete strangers, and 58% occurred on streets, major roads, and esknitas.

Original infographic from: www.gmanetwork.com

Although there are no surveys that we know of yet to find out how these figures play out within the running or fitness community, such incidents have been reported to occur. Especially in the case of runners. Many women in the running community have expressed at one or two occasions that they don’t feel safe training in the streets at night, or hours of the day when it’s still dark.

To make matters worse, most of these cases are never reported to authorities not because there’s a fear to do so, but because victims don’t feel confident that there’s really anything authorities can or will do about it.

Women are forced to settle for this kind of treatment, because they don’t feel that they will be helped with their plea and even possibly get blamed for it. Apart from the lack of aid to make things right, the matter is also brushed off with offenders committing these offenses under the guise of humor, pointing out how the victim can never take a joke.

With these factors added up, sexual harassment slowly became a norm that we had to learn to live with. After all, for the longest time, such offenses were only considered as tiny infractions and people could get away with doing so by paying a very small penalty. The girls ended up just learning to wear earphones to tune the cat-callers out. Up until now, the possibility of a change in the system seemed bleak.

Today however, hope seems to be in the works towards restoration, as it has been found in recent years that more people have become and are becoming intolerant of such a problem in society. On Monday, January 14, the House of Representatives approved the bill that criminalized cat-calling and other forms of street harassment (House Bill 8794 – Safe Street and Online Spaces Act).

In a report originally published by Rappler.com [read here], it is said that the bill imposes much heftier fines penalizing various forms of sexual harassment ranging from Php 30,000 to Php 200,000 and imprisonment of up to 6 months (depending on the manner and repetition of the offense).

Although it is yet to be observed whether or not this law will be carried out effectively by the judicial branch, the responsibility of upholding the law still also falls on the shoulders of us citizens. A law is only as good as the people implementing and upholding them, after all. Otherwise, it’s just another piece of paper full of signatures. We hope that with the approval of HB 8794, we can see more individuals empowered and encouraged to stand up against sexual harassment.

Or if you’re not a victim, but a witness to such violations, help the victim report the incident at the very least. The battle for safer streets for everyone is a long one, but as a collective, I’m sure we can achieve the task efficiently.

What are your thoughts about the passing of HB 8794? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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