Fourth year college student Kana Takahashi always have her pepper spray and ‘rape whistle’ ready. This is because, she claimed, almost every day, she experienced being sexually harassed in her daily commute to school.
“Bihirang lumipas ang isang araw na hindi ako na-cacatcall (It’s rare for single day to pass without me experiencing being catcalled),” Kana said.
A student leader in one of the universities in the City of Manila, Kana said that sexual harassment in public spaces is a “daily reality” not only for her but for many women in the nation’s capital.
Data from the Manila Police District (MPD) show that two women get harassed everyday in the country’s capital. The forms of harassment reported include acts of lasciviousness, sexual harassment, rape and violence against women; with most of the incidents happening after office hours and during unholy hours.
This is – hopefully – going to change soon, with the passage of a Manila ordinance penalizing catcalling and other forms of public sexual harassment.
The ordinance, sponsored by Manila District 4 Councilor Krystle Bacani, will penalize all forms of sexual harassment in public spaces, such as catcalling, wholf-whistling, leering and groping, among others. It also outlines clear penalties for violations and violators and enhances the role of the Manila Police District in apprehending harassers.
Manila Ordinance No. 7857 was passed on third and final reading by the Manila City Council. It is now waiting for the signature of Mayor Joseph Estrada, though – in instances like this – this is considered as just a “formality”.
In a statement released to Outrage Magazine, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros lauded this development, saying that “the passage of this landmark measure is a big victory for women and safe spaces advocates. It is historic and groundbreaking. An anti-catcalling ordinance in the country’s capital is a big boost to the campaign to protect its women from daily street harassment and a clear policy shift on the part of our local government.”
Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, is pushing for the passage of a Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act in the Senate. The bill aims to prohibit and penalize gender-based harassment in public spaces, such as catcalling, wolf-whistling, cursing, leering, groping, persistent request for name and contact details. It also seeks to penalize the use of words tending to ridicule on the basis of actual or perceived sex, gender expression, or sexual orientation and identity, including sexist, homophobic and transphobic slurs.
With this, the City of Manila joins Quezon City in penalizing street level harassment of women. In 2016, QC Mayor Herbert Bautista signed into law the city’s amended gender and development code, imposing a fine and jail term for acts considered as sexual harassment of women in public spaces.