Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, notorious for making sexist and misogynistic remarks, has signed a law penalising such slurs as well as cat-calling, wolf-whistling, and other forms of sexual harassment in public places.
Duterte signed the Safe Spaces Act on April 17 because “he recognizes the need for that law,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday.
“And since he is the chief enforcer of all laws of the Philippines, he will be the first one to obey the law,” he added, amid doubts on whether Duterte will be able to follow the new statute.
Under the law, acts of gender-based sexual harassment in streets and public spaces, such as work spaces and schools, are punishable by community service or imprisonment and a fine depending on the gravity of the offence.
The prohibited acts include cursing, catcalling, wolf-whistling, leering and intrusive gazing, taunting, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, sexist slurs, persistent telling of sexual jokes, use of sexual names, comments and demands.
Those found guilty of making offensive body gestures such as exposing body parts for sexual gratification or public masturbation and groping face up to six months in prison and a fine of at least 200 dollars.
Acts such as stalking, or the touching, pinching or brushing against the offended person are also punishable by imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of at least 600 dollars.
The 74-year-old Duterte has been accused of most of these actions.
Weeks before he was sworn in as president in June 2016, he wolf-whistled a female reporter during a news conference in his southern home city of Davao.
He has also often made sexist remarks and rape jokes during public speeches.
But Panelo said that the law did not apply to Duterte because his remarks were not meant to offend or directed against a particular person.
“When he cracks jokes, they are intended to make people laugh, never to offend.
“If you will just listen to the jokes of the president, you would really laugh.
“(The) audience, they give a hearty laugh. It’s not indecent,” he said.
According to Panelo, Duterte has a lot of respect for women and “reacts violently, or negatively … to people who offend women.
“If the president commits any violation of any law, then any person can sue him for that violation.
“No one is above the law, including this president, and he always tells us that,” he added.