UN Women and QC Government’s Safe Cities Progamme in Manila launches new data and city law on sexual harassment in public spaces

Date:: 08 March 2016

[Press Release]

Quezon City - UN Women and the Quezon City Government was lighting the way to safe cities throughout the entire month of March, the National Women’s Month, highlighting the issue of street harassment and sexual violence against women and girls (SVAWG) in public spaces with its Safe Cities Programme.

The Safe Cities Metro Manila Programme is part of a global initiative of UN Women, joined by over 24 cities that aim to improve women’s safety as they move about in the highly urbanized cities, and Quezon City is the first in the country to prioritize this issue alongside their development agenda through a partnership with UN Women.

Three in five women reported having experienced a form of street harassment or sexual violence in public places at least once in their life, with one in seven reporting to experience this at least once a week in the past year alone. Further the prevalence goes up to 88% for women ages 18-24 .

These were only a few of the alarming results from a baseline study commissioned by the Quezon City government with the Social Weather Station (SWS) as part of the Safe Cities Manila Programme, which was launched at a Press Conference on March 7, the eve of the International Women’s Day. It is the first ever data on the issue in the country.

Attended by reporters from over 10 media outlets, the event also saw the welcomed announcement of a new law that amended the Gender and Development Code of Quezon City to increase penalties against street harassment. Another first in the Philippines, the city legislation strengthened protection for verbal and gestural sexual harassment, as well as for stalking.

With fines ranging from Php1,000 to 5,000, the QC government underlines that street harassment of women in any form will not be tolerated in the city, and that it supports the campaign to change the culture of tolerance that has kept so many women silent about the effects of sexual harassment in public spaces. “Women and girls should feel safe in our cities. It is their right, and it is the government’s duty to ensure that this is so,” according to Mayor Herbert Bautista who shared why the city partnered with UN Women on this programme.

Aside from the study, public service announcements (PSAs) to stop sexual harassment and to stand-up for women who get harassed were also launched at the press conference along with the public announcement of UN Women Safe Cities’ Celebrity Supporter, Glaiza de Castro. Outdoor posters to encourage the public to report sexual harassment are found throughout the entire city, as can be seen along the Eliptical Road and Quezon Avenue, to name a few.

The press conference was followed by a lighting ceremony, with one thousand floating lanterns in the city skyline, to raise national awareness on the issue of street harassment and other forms of sexual violence that women are forced to endure as they commute to and from work, school or other public places.

And since the entire month of March is National Women’s Month, a series of workshops were also conducted with the barangay officials and community organizers, youth, as well as LGBT groups to strengthen local capacities to advocate for women’s safety and their right to enjoy freedom of movement in the cities and to be free from fear.

Awareness-raising efforts were also intensified in social media using the hashtags #SafeCities and #FreeFromFear, and with one of the 30-second PSAs going viral only a few days after posting – registering over 400k views, 11k shares and close to 25k likes (on both post and shares).

The Safe Cities Metro Manila Programme is ongoing in Quezon City and aims to expand in order to involve more cities in the Global Initiative.

For more information about the Programme, visit their Facebook Page: Safe Cities Metro Manila Programme and Twitter: @SafeCitiesMM.