The Philippines’ Safe Spaces Act only had 90 days to pass its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) – and girls and young people were part of it.
“A law will not be as powerful if only one sector works for its implementation. It should be a collaborative effort of all sectors – the Philippine Commission on Women, local governments, academic institutions, civil society, and us, girls and young people,” said Laica, 21.
Hosting eight public consultations, Plan International Philippines during the 2019 International Day of the Girl opened the draft IRR for the critical, empathetic and realistic eyes of forty-five (45) girls and young people, like Laica, 21 and Fiona, 19.
Making history with girls and young people, the October 11 consultation is also the first of its kind— the country’s only IRR-related public consultation to date with children and youth, mainly girls, as the participants.
“In this consultation, we understood more about our rights, about the law. We saw that there is a space for us to engage in because we are the ones who are and will be affected. This is important for us young people, especially young women, because the impact in our lives is enormous,” reflected Fiona, 19.
Aimed at strengthening the country’s legal framework against sexual harassment, the landmark legislation seeks to prevent gender-based sexual harassment in streets, in public places, online, at the workplace and in training institutions. “The Safe Spaces Act is holistic – it is not only for a single sector such as for women, for children, for the LGBTQI+ separately. It is for ALL -- the reason we call it #SafeSpacesParaSaLahat (#SafeSpacesForEveryone),” Laica added.
“Regardless of age, gender, educational attainment, profession, wealth, or choices in life, nobody deserves to fear walking the streets of Metro Manila to get to school, to work, or home to their family. Nobody deserves to be at the receiving end of slurs or unwanted harassment that make us cringe and think twice about our plans or route for the next day. Nobody deserves to feel embarrassed, helpless, like they are less of a person, or violated,” said Deputy Country Director Ryan Lander.
During the consultation, girls and young people envisioned their safe spaces and critiqued the draft IRR based on this exercise. Young leaders recommended to include non-verbal signals, like inappropriate body language, as valid forms of harassment that should be penalized.
The young leaders were also keen on bringing the systems and tools closer to potential victim-survivors. In particular, at the community and school level, they propose popularizing the law using the local language and child-friendly messages. They also suggested for local governments to have anti-sexual harassments hotlines for quick incident reporting.
On October 28, 2019, the Safe Spaces Act’s Implementing Rules and Regulations was officially signed – stronger and more sensible with the recommendations of Filipino girls and boys included.