Press Release
December 12, 2017

*Statement of Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros in support of the call to make the local independent music scene a safe space for women and LGBT

I think it's time to talk about the elephant in the room. Ang sexual harassment is an issue that has a public and private dimension to it. Napakapersonal niya because it deals with our bodies, our private space and our consent. Issue siya ng power, and someone taking that power over us. But it is also a public concern. Unang una, because it is a crime. Pangalawa, because if one person can fall victim to sexual harassment, others can too. Now I know the first impulse is a wave of emotions - hiya, galit, lungkot, all rolled into a single incomprehensible mess.

Do not be afraid. Do not be ashamed. This is a natural response to trauma. But there is also another side to this fear. It can be overcome, and it can be harnessed. Huwag sana nating hayaan matalo tayo ng takot at pangamba. The first thing I would like to assure everyone here, is that there many in this country who take a stand against sexual harassment. The fact that we are all here is proof of that. Gusto kong pasalamatan ulit ang Mow's for bravely offering a safe space, which brings me to the second point I'd like to talk about.

We have laws that try to respond, but we need to strengthen them and make them more relevant to modern times and the everyday realities of Filipino women.

We have laws that try to respond to the threat of harassment, pero kailangan silang palakasin at gawing relevant sa mga panahon natin ngayon. Unang una na rito ang Republic Act 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995. And in order to respond to these times, strengthen RA 7877, and bring the response closer to our daily reality, we have a measure sa Senate that empowers victims of sexual harassment to take the fight to the harasser more actively. This is the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017, or Senate Bill 1326. Binibigay sa atin ng bill na 'to ang ability to report catcalling, wolf-whistling, groping, leering, and the persistent request for contact details. It takes the fight against sexual harassment to the ground.

It categorizes three types of violations, from light to heavy. Light violations, such a cursing, wolf-whistling and persistent attempts to get a woman's contact details are punishable up to 30 days in prison or a fine of Php3,000. Medium grade offenses such as making offensive bodily gestures or exposing or flashing private parts at someone carries a fine of Php5,000 or imprisonment of up to six months in prison. And for the most severe offenses, like stalking, pinching, or brushing against genitalia, the face or the buttocks will be punished by a fine of Php10,000 or imprisonment of one to six months.

Another important part of the bill is the "no means no" principle. Pag sinabi ng isang babae ang salitang 'to, that no means no, whether in English, tagalog, or in her local dialect, this presumes the absence of consent. In short, pag sinabi ng isang babae na hindi siya komportable, pag ayaw niya, o pag sinabi niyang 'hindi," walang ibang ibig sabihin yon. It means the advance is unwelcome and should clearly stop.

Sa ngayon, pag-uusapan sa Senado ang Safe Streets and Public Spaces Bill. But I'm here to say that we should never be afraid to say no, we should never be afraid to call out harassment not only when we experience it, pero lalong lalo na kung nakikita natin itong ginagawa sa iba. Alam ninyo, kahit hindi ako musician, I love music. And alam ko na for music to be music, it must be free, and the people who make it should be free to be themselves. Music, gaya ng pagsusulat, o paggawa ng peilikula, o pagpinta, is an expression of oneself. And the independent music scene, to my mind, should be a safe space for the entire community, but most especially for women and for members of the LGBT community. My daughters are music enthusiasts themselves. And they go to gigs to enjoy the local music scene and have a good with their friends. As a parent of course, I do my best to strike a balance between looking after their safety very closely, and giving them the room they need to explore and enjoy, not only their youth, but the artistic communities they go into.

It is my hope that the music scene remains a free and safe space for everyone - men, women, gays and lesbians and transgender individuals alike. Because no one should come to a place of joy, art and fellowship under the shadow of fear, pressure and abuse.

Maraming maraming salamat, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

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