Philippine leader signs law punishing sexual harassment

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law against various forms of sexual harassment, including persistent telling of sexual jokes, which pro-women’s groups have accused him of committing. (Malacanang Presidential Photo via AP, File)
Updated 16 July 2019

Philippine leader signs law punishing sexual harassment

  • The law defines a range of offensive acts, including catcalling, wolf-whistling, intrusive gazing, cursing, misogynistic acts, sexist slurs, and more
  • Restaurants, bars, cinemas and other places of recreation are required to install clearly visible warning signs against would-be violators

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a bill into law penalizing a range of acts of sexual harassment including catcalling, wolf-whistling and persistent telling of sexual jokes, which pro-women’s groups have accused him of committing.
Philippine officials released on Monday a copy of Republic Act 11313, known as the “Safe Spaces Act,” which Duterte signed in April. The reason for the delay in its public release was not immediately clear.
The bill’s main author, opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, has called the law a “massive victory” against a growing culture of rude sexist actions.
“This is a big victory and a major push back against the growing ‘rude culture’ in our streets and communities,” Hontiveros said. “With this law, we will reclaim our streets from sexual harassers and gender bigots and make public spaces safe for all.”
The law defines a range of offensive acts, including catcalling, wolf-whistling, intrusive gazing, cursing, misogynistic acts, sexist slurs and persistent telling of sexual jokes in public, including in streets, workplaces, vehicles, schools, recreational areas, bars or online.
Other offenses include stalking, exposing “private parts, groping or any advances, whether verbal or physical, that is unwanted and has threatened one’s sense of personal space and physical safety.”
Restaurants, bars, cinemas and other places of recreation are required to install clearly visible warning signs against would-be violators, including a hotline number to allow rapid reporting of offenses, and to designate an officer to receive complaints or apprehend perpetrators.
“It is the policy of the state to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights,” the law says.
Punishments include fines and imprisonment depending on the gravity of the offense. Foreign violators would be deported after serving a jail term and paying fines.
Duterte, 74, a longtime mayor before winning the presidency in 2016, has been known for speeches laden with expletives and sexual jokes. Activists have repeatedly accused him of sexism and misogyny but supporters have defended him by saying he has introduced regulations to protect and uphold women’s rights.
Last year, Duterte publicly ordered troops to shoot female communist guerrillas in the vagina to render them “useless.” A left-wing human rights group, Karapatan, reacted by saying Duterte had distinguished himself “as a frothing-in-the-mouth fascist who incites the worst violations of international humanitarian law.”
Duterte was also criticized for kissing a married woman on the lips in front of a large Filipino audience in South Korea last year. When Duterte asked if she could explain to her husband that the action would be just a joke, she said yes, and the president leaned in and kissed her as the audience erupted in cheers.
“President Duterte acted like a feudal king who thinks that being the president is an entitlement to do anything that he pleases,” Hontiveros said then.


Kabul expects US to share peace deal details

Updated 48 min 55 sec ago

Kabul expects US to share peace deal details

  • Afghan government excluded from all rounds of talks
  • Washington is keen for the deal to be signed before Sept. 1

KABUL: Afghanistan said on Saturday it expects the US to share details of a peace deal with the Taliban before it is signed, having been excluded from all rounds of talks.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has led diplomats through at least nine rounds of talks with members of the armed group in Qatar since last summer.

A deal could pave the way for a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and end almost two decades of fighting in the country.

But President Ashraf Ghani’s government has been left out of the talks because of objections from the Taliban, which views his regime as a puppet of the West.

The current round of discussions has been described as crucial because, according to present and former Taliban officials, both parties are expected to soon sign a deal.

“The Afghan government expects that it (agreement) will be shared before it is finalized for signing,” Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, told Arab News.

He said Kabul could not say when the deal would be signed, and that troops’ departure would be condition-based and not based on a timeline set by the Taliban.

“Well, force reduction will be based on conditions, the terrorist threat is potential and we must fight it together for our common safety and in order to prevent any major terrorist attacks on the world’s capitals. 

“We must deny terrorists from holding free ground in Afghanistan and turning it into a safe haven. The presence of some forces, and continued and meaningful support to the Afghan security and defense forces, will be key to our success.”

The Taliban wants all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan within a set timetable and, in return, the group says it will not allow Afghan soil to be used against any foreign country or US interests.

Afghan and US officials have warned against a total pullout of troops because, they argue, the Taliban will try to regain power by force and the country will slide back into chaos after troops leave.

But some say a continued presence will prolong the conflict, as neighboring powers oppose the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and see it as a trigger for extremism.

The Taliban could not be reached immediately for comment about media reports, which cited the group’s former and current officials as saying that a deal with Washington was imminent.

“We have an agreement on a timeframe for the withdrawal,” Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s spokesman for the Qatar talks, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “Discussions are now focused on its implementation mechanism. We have had general discussions today,” he added, referring to current discussions in Doha. “Tomorrow, we shall have discussions on the implementation part.”

Another Taliban spokesman said the top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, had taken part in the current talks which, according to some observers, showed the importance of the discussions and the possibility of a final deal.

Washington is keen for the deal to be signed before Sept. 1, weeks ahead of a crucial and controversial presidential poll in Afghanistan. 

Ghani, who is standing for re-election, says the polls are his priority. Some politicians believe that peace will have to come first and that the vote will have to be delayed.

Abdul Satar Saadat, who served as an adviser to Ghani, said the Taliban and US were racing against time as any delay would damage trust between the two and prompt the Taliban to fight for another five years.

“Because of this both sides are doing their utmost to sign the deal, delay the polls and begin an intra-Afghan dialogue like Oslo,” he told Arab News.