Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a new law whereby catcalling and wolf-whistling, etc. are considered forms of sexual harassment and should carry punishment – up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of 500,000 pesos (US $9,750), the state media outlet Philippine News Agency reported.
Although the so-called Safe Spaces Act actually came into force in April, it was only made public by officials on Monday, with the main author of the bill, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, arguing that the law was “a massive victory”.
"With this law, we will reclaim our streets from sexual harassers and gender bigots and make public spaces safe for all", the politician noted.
The law slaps fines and, in some cases, prison sentences for sexual harassment in the streets, schools and offices, including groping, misogynistic slurs, as well as uninvited comments or gestures referring to a person's appearance, along with catcalling and alike.
The fact that 74-year-old Duterte signed the bill has been widely discussed by the Philippine public, including women’s rights organisations, with a party called Gabriela tweeting publicly that he was “the single most brazen violator of the law’s intent with his staple macho-fascist remarks”.
The Philippine president has repeatedly stirred controversy over his wordy rants directed at women: last year, he said that he sexually assaulted a maid when he was a teen, although his spokesman later said that he had intentionally made the story up. In a separate episode, he sparked fury after he kissed an overseas Filipina worker on the lips during a public event, as well as instructed Filipino soldiers to shoot female communist rebels right in the vagina.