Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed elation over the passage into law of the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act, also known as the “Bawal Bastos” bill, seeking to prevent gender-based sexual harassment from occurring in public places.

De Lima said its passage into law was timely because women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have become more vulnerable to abuses and sexual harassment under the leadership of a sexist President.

“No one is exempt from gender-based abuses nowadays which happen almost everywhere – from the streets, to schools, workplaces, and digital platforms,” she said.

“With this new law, public spaces can be a safer place for everyone, especially women and those of the LGBT as this piece of legislation can be their very weapon against abusers. Gone should be the days when people would just take sexist remarks or gestures as mere jokes, if not harmless,” she added.

Senate Bill No. 1558 was principally authored and sponsored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, with Senators Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, and De Lima as its co-authors. It lapsed into law last April 21 after Duterte failed to act on a Senate-House bicameral conference committee report ratified in February.

Under the final version of the bill agreed upon by the bicameral committee, the acts listed as gender-based streets and public spaces sexual harassment include cursing, catcalling, wolf-whistling, leering, taunting, misogynistic and sexist slurs, persistent telling of sexual jokes, and use of sexual names, among others.

The specified acts may be punishable from community service of 12 hours up to arresto menor or 11 to 30 days imprisonment for the third offense.

Other unlawful acts, such as making offensive body gestures at someone, exposing private parts for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator, and stalking, to name some, may receive graver punishment of imprisonment of up to a month and one day and up to six months under the law.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, commended her colleagues in the Upper and Lower Chambers of Congress for fighting against gender-based abuses by lobbying for the enactment into law of the “Safe Space” Act.

“I am proud of my colleagues who helped push for the passage of this bill into law. Our fight against violence and oppression brought about by patriarchy and sexism, though, never ends here,” she said.

“We need to ensure that this new law will be implemented properly and will not exempt anyone from compliance – not even Mr. Duterte who is known for his misogynist remarks that are now consistently being used to lend humor to presidential speeches,” she added.

A known women human rights defender, De Lima has authored and co-authored several bills and resolutions advocating women’s rights, including Senate Resolution No. 670, seeking to strengthen compliance in the execution of gender-responsive programs by GAD to bridge the gap between men and women and Senate Bill No. 1438 focusing on the protection of women in state custody.