How to protect your privacy and safety through the Safe Spaces Act


5 min read

Know your rights featuring the Safe Spaces Act of 2019 or the “Bawal Bastos Law” also known as “An Act Defining Gender-Based Sexual Harassment in Streets, Public Places, Online, Workplaces, and Educational or Training Institutions, Providing Protective Measures and Prescribing Penalties Thereof”.

The Safe Spaces Act, or popularly known as the “Bawal Bastos Bill” was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte last April 2019, and became effective after completion of its Implementing Rules and Regulation and publication on March 2020.

In this Article, we will discuss the features of the novel law, the possible victims and offenders, the prohibited acts and how they are committed, the penalties, and what should we do to be compliant with the said Safe Spaces Act.

The basic human rights are well enshrined in our Philippine Constitution. These rights include dignity, respect, equality and safety for all, regardless of status, race, social standing and religious beliefs, among others.

The Safe Spaces Act will give more protection to a person’s privacy and safety regardless of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression or SOGIE, moving forward from our traditional definition of Sexual Harassment.

The Safe Spaces Act was enacted in pursuance of the following mandates:

  • To value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights;
  • To recognize the role of women in nation-building and ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men; and
  • To recognize that both men and women must have equality, security, and safety not only in private but also on the streets, public places, online, workplaces and educational training institutions.

Where does the law protect individuals from gender-based harassment?

  • Streets and public places, including privately owned places that are open to the public and public utility vehicles;
  • Online;
  • Workplace; and
  • Educational or Training Institutions.

What are the prohibited acts under the Safe Spaces Act or R. A. 11313?

Typewriter with a paper that has privacy policy written on it

The following are considered gender-based harassment:

  • Catcalling – refers to unwanted remarks directed towards a person, commonly done in the form of wolf-whistling and misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist slurs;
  • Homophobic Remarks and Slurs – are any statements in whatever form or however delivered, which are indicative of fear, hatred or aversion towards persons who are perceived to be or actually identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, pansexual and such other persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or towards any person perceived to or actually have experienced same-sex attraction.
  • Misogynistic Remarks or Slurs – are any statements in whatever form or however delivered, that are indicative of the feeling or hating women or the belief that men are inherently better than women.
  • Sexist Remarks or slurs – are statements in whatever form or however delivered, that are indicative of prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of sex, typically against women.
  • Transphobic Remarks or Slurs – are any statements in whatever form or however delivered, that are indicative of fear, hatred or aversion towards persons whose gender identity or expression do not conform to their sex assigned at birth.
  • Stalking – refers to conduct directed at a person involving the repeated visual or physical proximity, non-consensual communication, or a combination thereof that cause or will likely cause a person to fear one’s own safety or the safety of others, or to suffer emotional distress.
Eye peeping through a hole

The following are considered Online Gender Based Sexual Harassment:

  • Physical, psychological, and emotional threats, unwanted sexual misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist remarks and comments online whether publicly or through direct and private messages.
  • Invasion of victim’s privacy through cyberstalking and incessant messaging, uploading and sharing without the consent of the victim, any form of media that contains photos, voice or video with sexual content.
  • Unauthorized recording and sharing of any of the victim’s photos, videos or any information online. Impersonating identities of victims online or posting lies about victims to harm their reputation.
  • Filing false abuse reports to online platforms to silence victims.
Person on a laptop with a security text

Penalties:

The prohibited acts mentioned above are punishable by:

1st Offense – a fine of PHP1000 and 12HRS Community Service Gender Sensitivity Seminar; 

2nd Offense - 6-10days Imprisonment or PHP 3,000 fine; 

3rd Offense - 11-30 days Imprisonment and PHP10,000 fine.

The actions of making offensive body gestures at someone, and exposing private parts for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator with the effect of demeaning, harassing, threatening or intimidating the offended party including flashing of private parts, public masturbation, groping, and similar lewd sexual actions are punishable by:

1st Offense – A fine of PHP 10,000 and 12hrs Community Service and Gender Sensitivity Seminar;

 2nd Offense - 11-30 days Imprisonment or PHP 15,000 fine;

 3rd Offense - 1 month – 6 months imprisonment and PHP 20,000 fine.

Stalking, touching when accompanied by pinching or brushing against the body of the offended person; or any touching, pinching, or brushing against the genitalia, face, arms, anus, groin, breasts, inner thighs, face, buttocks or any part of the victim's body are punishable by:

1st Offense - 11-30 days Imprisonment or a fine of PHP 30,000 and Gender Sensitivity Seminar;

 2nd Offense - 1 month - 6 months Imprisonment or a fine of PHP 50,000;

3rd Offense - 1 month - 6 months imprisonment or a fine of PHP 100,000.

Gender-based Online Sexual Harassment is punishable by 2yrs, 4mos, 1 day to 4yrs and 2 months Imprisonment and a fine of PHP 100,000 – PHP 500,000 or both, at the discretion of the Court.

If the act is committed in a PUV, Offended party is a minor, senior, PWD, breastfeeding mother nursing her child, mental problem tending to impair consent, perpetrator is a member of the uniformed service and he/she was in uniform; and premises of government agency performing frontline services, the  penalty  is 4 years 2 months and 1 day to 6 years imprisonment.

If the perpetrator is a corporation or juridical person, the liability will fall on its officers and there will be automatic revocation of their franchise or license to operate. 

In case of print and broadcast media, editors, reporters or broadcasters, and station managers will be liable. 

Alien offenders who committed gender based online harassment will be deported after serving the sentence and payment of fines.

Privately owned places open to the public like restaurants, bars, malls, cinemas, among others are required to adopt a policy of zero tolerance in their establishments against GBSH; implement measures to prevent its occurrence; and the establishment of protocols to be followed should GBSH occur in their establishment.

Sexual Harassment in Educational or Training institution and Workplaces have been expanded imposing much stricter duties, liabilities and policies for the prevention and implementation of the law.

It shall also be noted that, the Safe Spaces Act had expanded its definition of “gender” in a much broader sense departing to the traditional definition of just “male or female”, thus:

  • Gender - refers to a set of socially ascribed characteristics, norms, roles, attitudes, values, and expectations identifying the social behavior of men and women, and the relations between them.
  • Gender identity and/or expression - refers to the personal sense of identity as characterized, among others, by manner of clothing, inclinations, and behavior in relation to masculine or feminine conventions.
  • A person may have a male or female identity with physiological characteristics of the opposite sex, or may have been assigned a particular sex at birth but who identifies with the opposite sex, or may have an identity that does not correspond to one’s sex assigned at birth or to one’s primary or secondary sex characteristics, in which case this person is considered transgender.

The Safe Spaces Act further expanded the definition of sexual harassment in a work-related or employment environment, thus, it is not essential that the demand, request or requirement be made as a condition for continued employment or for promotion to a higher position as defined in the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995. 

It is enough that the actions of the Respondent, regardless of rank or position in the company, create an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment to the employee.

Do you think this is a good law? What are your thoughts about Gender Based Sexual Harassment? You can leave a comment below. Please follow us on Facebook.

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