The Safe Streets and Public Spaces Bill is on its final reading in Congress. Here’s why it matters.
It’s tough being a woman. Society is literally rigged against you, and even something as simple as walking down the street can be a scary undertaking. It’s common for you to feel a gnawing anxiety at the pit of your stomach when you have to interact with a male stranger, because there is always the possibility of getting harassed, or worse — raped. Add those to the fact that our country is run by a self-proclaimed rapist and misogynist, and it’s practically hell.
But here’s the good news: there is a Safe Streets and Public Spaces Bill that is well on it’s way to getting passed, all thanks to its principal authors Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin. It is finally getting approved on its third and final reading in Congress this week, and it might just be signed into a law within this year. Fingers crossed.
In the roundtable discussion with Sen. Risa and Rep. Tom last Saturday, we discussed the importance of the bill and why it matters today. Here’s what we learned.
Our current laws don’t target gender-based violence
“One of the biggest challenges for passing the bill is the fact that we have many conservatives in the Congress and Senate,” shared Rep Tom Villarin. He spoke about how a lot of lawmakers — women included — don’t really get why there is a need for a bill such as this.
The proposed Safe Streets and Public Spaces Bill aims to provide a legal groundwork against gender-based violence and sexual harassment in public spaces. If passed, it will penalize all forms of sexual harassment: catcalling, whistling, and even using homophobic and transphobic slurs. It also aims to integrate gender sensitivity classes into the education system as a proactive measure.
It’s not just for women — it’s for everyone
Nope, it’s not biased against straight men. While the bill recognizes the fact that women and members of the LGBT community are more prone to sexual harassment, it doesn’t ignore the fact that everyone is still susceptible to it. Men and women — no matter the sexual orientation or gender identity, are going to be benefit.
Sexual offenders get mandatory gender sensitivity classes
In order to make sure that sexual harassment does not perpetuate, the bill includes a mandatory gender sensitivity class for all proven offenders. That’s on top of paying fines or going to jail, depending on the severity of the crime.
On the HIV Law
Republic Act 11166, or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 was finally passed last week, paving the way for the management of the rising number of HIV and AIDS cases in the country. As one of the principal authors of the law, Sen. Risa Hontiveros pointed out that the Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia to still have an increase in HIV-related cases. “We are hoping that with this law, we can finally curb the epidemic, by making sure that Filipinos get access to better medicine and technology to manage HIV and AIDS,” she said.
Among the most important breakthroughs that the law brings is allowing minors aged 15-17 to have themselves tested even without parental consent. The law also guarantees that people with HIV are not discriminated, especially in the workforce.