Officials called to respect Safe Spaces Act

Officials called to respect Safe Spaces Act

A WOMEN'S rights advocate hopes that public servants would set as examples by respecting the recently signed Republic Act (RA) 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act.

Gabriela Southern Mindanao Representative Jean Lindo, in a text message, said although the group welcomes the law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte that aims to penalize catcalling and other gender-based harassment in public places, she said government officials and the President himself should lead as example.

Those found violating the law face imprisonment and can be fined as much as P500,000.

"I definitely welcome this law. I thank the President for signing the law and the women would be happier if he sets a good example," Lindo told SunStar Davao on Tuesday, July 16.

"He signed the Women Development Code in 1998 but his public gestures were contrary to what he signed. Internalizing a gender fair culture is as important as signing the law," Lindo added.

Duterte has been repeatedly slammed for his "dirty jokes" about women in his previous speeches since he assumed the presidency in 2016.

Gabriela is one of those who slammed the President for his remarks in public.

Lindo said foreign leaders resign from their post when criticized for making sexist remarks.

Lindo said the law would complement previously enacted laws such as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children, Anti-Sexual Harassment Law, and other related laws.

Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) commissioner Norman Baloro said the law will strengthen policies and legislation for greater gender empowerment and equality.

Baloro, an advocate for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+), said they will also benefit from the law.

He said the bill is anchored on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) the government is pushing to address inequality and violence.

Prior to its passage, he said Davao City had already created a landmark ordinance for the protection of the LGBTQ+ over discrimination.

"The signing of this bill, this Anti-Bastos bill affirms how he values the rights of the marginalized sector," Baloro said.

Reyna Dabawenya first winner Rojean Buhian said the law will solidify the respect the sector deserves.

Buhian admitted she had experienced different forms of discrimination, including catcalling.

She said unlike women wherein their rights are slowly being recognized, the LGBTQ+ are still not well-accepted in the community.

"At least with this law, we have our rights that we would hold on to, because right now, when women are being catcalled there are actions taken, but for us LGBTQ+ people usually raise their eyebrows and even call us being 'exaggerated'," Buhian said.

She said the law will meet challenges in its implementation, but she is optimistic that the law will safeguard their rights, and will fully spare them against the long-time discrimination they receive from the public.

Government employee Winston Ajero said the law will address sexual harassment, a long time social problem.

He said he hopes this would end gender stereotypes, which even men are even experiencing.

"For the male harassers, they shall learn their lesson. Seriously though, I think this law implies that everyone gets protection from sexual harassment, including men--because men are victims, too. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment even when the victim is male," Ajero said.

"We may not or never speak about it because, sadly, double standards! But seriously, men are also targets of catcalling, indecent behaviour, improper invitations, even groping(!), and I experienced these myself. Which I find very disturbing. This isn't normal. This shouldn't be normal [sic]," Ajero added, admitting he too had previous encounters of minor discomforts.


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