by Kristofer Purnell
(Header Photo: Tarpaulins warning people about sexual harassment located along Commonwealth Avenue)
MANILA, Philippines – Quezon City’s Gender and Development (GAD) Council passed an ordinance to reduce catcalling and other forms of street-level sexual harassment toward women.
The ordinance, authored by Councilor Lena Marie Juico, aims to raise support for women who are victims of sexual harassment, human trafficking, and pornography, and to increase women’s safety in public spaces in Quezon City.
Upon implementation, Quezon City is expected to have a decreased risk of sexual harassment, and women may enjoy safety and comfort public.
It is expected also that women will be empowered by knowing their rights and are supported by the government. The ordinance further seeks to encourage other cities in Metro Manila to take action against sexual harassment.
Mayor Bautista is expected to sign the ordinance with the conclusion of the 2016 national elections, after a landslide win in Quezon City for a second term as city mayor.
Kinds And Punishments
(Fines and penalties indicated in the ordinance, taken from a briefing report by Quezon City Administrator Aldrin Cuña)
(List of the kinds of harassment indicated in the ordinance)
GAD Code Amendment
(L: The office of the Gender and Development Council in Quezon City Hall’s Legislative Building)
In line with the implementation of the Gender and Development Ordinance, the GAD Council, headed by Atty. Rey Espina, have also decided the current GAD Code needs amendment.
“We proposed na there’s a need to amend the GAD Code para ma-harmonize yung provisions of the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710) and the existing laws na medyo related sa gender and development”, said Atty. Espina.
Espina hoped that with the amendment of the GAD Code, the Congress may take notice and adopt its own version that it becomes a national law.
(R: Atty. Rey Espina, in his office, talks about the issues leading to the GAD Code’s amendment)
“Hindi naman dahil sa present situation, we’re going to correct ang kaugalian na ‘this is normal’ but actually it’s not (It’s not just because of the present situation, we’re going to correct the custom that ‘this is normal’ but actually its not)”, the attorney explained.
Partnership with UN Women
Last March 7, 2016, the Quezon City government along with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) held a campaign to put an end to harassment and sexual violence against women. Gender quality and LGBT advocates were also present at the campaign.
The Quezon City government’s partnership with UN Women is the first-ever global comparative effort that develops comprehensive approaches to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence against women in public.
“Malaking tulong talaga ang UN Women, sila talaga ang nagdala niyan dito sa [Quezon City] (The UN Women were a big help, they were the ones who brought this to ]Quezon City]),” Espina also said.
“Mga ibang bansa, hindi acceptable sa kultura nila na pag tinawag ka ng ganoon, ng ‘hi sexy’ (In other countries, it’s not acceptable in their culture to be called at ‘hi sexy’),” Espina added, “Compared sa atin, parang na gawang okay lang iyon pero we realize hindi pala siya okay (Compared to us, we’ve made the act okay but we realize it’s really not okay)”
Espina said that he is not aware of any other non-governmental organizations supporting or against the GAD ordinance, but has heard positive comments.
Safe City & Fair Treatment
Quezon City Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista, whose advocacy includes equality and elimination of discrimination against women, supported the amendment of the GAD Code as it promotes gender equality and deterrence against public space sexual harassment.
“Catcalling is not a right. It is a form of harassment. It demeans and disrespects women,” said Bautista, “We have grown accustomed to offensive behaviour that makes us perceive that it is normal and acceptable.”
“[The passing of this ordinance] means a city safe from harassment and hopefully, provides a peace of mind for our constituents”, commented the mayor.
With issues concerning rape circulating, Mayor Bautista stated that “[It] further validates the need for this kind of legislation. In my opinion, to simply think of putting rape as a subject of a joke is simply absurd.”
“Regardless of the intention, when a person commits any act of harassment, that person should be penalized,” shared Bautista, “In general, everyone should be given fair treatment regardless of one’s gender, financial status, and social status.”
Renée Torralba, a student of Ateneo de Manila University who has been catcalled numerous times before, recounts her latest experience.
“I was [very] annoyed. This time was the creepiest because the dude was taking a video or photo”, said Torralba.
Torralba wasn’t aware if the ordinance was passed or not. “I just really expect people to take the law seriously, and hopefully it’s passed soon,” said the student, “It’s upsetting that guys still need a law to prevent them from doing something that will terrify others”.
Monseratt Luna, a student of Far Eastern University-Diliman, also recounts her last catcalling experience.
“I was walking around with my cousin having a mini-photo shoot, and a group of carpenters were looking at us while saying ‘UYYY’ as in nagpaparinig talaga (making themselves heard)”, said Luna.
“[It was] still so bothersome, even the stares itself kahit yung lang sobrang nakakadisturb (even that alone was very disturbing)”, adds the FEU student.
Luna was aware of the ordinance and feels empowered because there are now fees for simple catcalls.
“Dati super helpless lang yung feeling eh (The feeling had intense helplessness back then),” explained Luna, “And madaming nambabastos kasi (a lot of them catcall because) they deem there’s nothing wrong with verbal sexual abuse”.