On April 17, 2018 Congress enacted Republic Act (R.A) 11313, otherwise known as the Safe Spaces Act.
It is based on the policy of the State to value dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights. Also, to recognize the role of women in nation-building and ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.
The State also recognizes that both men and women must have equality, security and safety not only in private, but also on the streets, public spaces, online, workplaces and educational and training institutions.
The law also defines gender-based online sexual harassment. It refers to an online conduct targeted at a particular person that causes or likely to cause another mental, emotional or psychological distress, and fear of personal safety, sexual harassment acts including unwanted sexual remarks and comments, threats, uploading or sharing of one’s photos without consent, video and audio recordings, cyberstalking and online identity theft.
Gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace
The crime of gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace includes the following:
- An act or series of acts involving any unwelcome sexual advances, requests or demand for sexual favors or any act of sexual nature, whether done verbally, or physically or through the use of technology such as text messaging or electronic mail or through any other forms of information and communication systems, that has or could have a detrimental effect on the conditions of an individual’s employment or education, job performance or opportunities;
- A conduct of sexual nature and other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of a person, which is unwelcome, unreasonable, and offensive to the recipient, whether done verbally, physically or through the use of technology such as text messaging or electronic mail or through any other forms of information and communication systems;
- A conduct that is unwelcome and pervasive and creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating environment for the recipient: Provided, That the crime of gender-based sexual harassment may also be committed between peers and those committed to a superior officer by a subordinate, or to a teacher by a student, or to a trainer by a trainee; and
- Information and communication system refers to a system for generating, sending, receiving, storing or otherwise processing electronic data messages or electronic documents and includes the computer system or other similar devices by or in which data are recorded or stored and any procedure related to the recording or storage of electronic data messages or electronic documents.
Duties of Employers
Employers or other persons of authority, influence or moral ascendancy in a workplace shall have the duty to prevent, deter, or punish the performance of acts of gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace. Towards this end, the employer or person of authority, influence or moral ascendancy shall:
- Disseminate or post in a conspicuous place a copy of R.A. 11313 to all persons in the workplace;
- Provide measures to prevent gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace, such as the conduct of anti-sexual harassment seminars;
- Create an independent internal mechanism or a committee on decorum and investigation to investigate and address complaints of gender-based sexual harassment which shall:
- Adequately represent the management, the employees from the supervisory rank, the rank-and-file employees, and the union, if any;
- Designate a woman as its head and not less than half of its members should be women;
- Be composed of members who should be impartial and not connected or related to the alleged perpetrator;
- Investigate and decide on the complaints within ten (10) days or less upon receipt thereof;
- Observe due process;
- Protect the complaint from retaliation; and
- Guarantee confidentiality to the greatest extent possible;
- Provide and disseminate, in consultation with all persons in the workplace, a code of conduct or workplace policy which shall:
- Expressly reiterate the prohibition on gender-based sexual harassment;
- Describe the procedures of the internal mechanism created under Section 17 (c) of R.A. 11313; and
- Set administrative penalties
Duties of Employees and Co-Workers
Employees and co-worker shall have the duty to:
- Refrain from committing acts of gender-based sexual harassment;
- Discourage the conduct of gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace;
- Provide emotional or social support to fellow employees, co-workers, colleagues or peers who are victims of gender-based sexual harassment; and
- Report acts of gender-based sexual harassment witnessed in the workplace.
Liability of Employers
In addition to liabilities for committing acts of gender-based sexual harassment, employers may also be held responsible for:
- Non-implementation of their duties under Section 17 of R.A. 11313, as provided in the penal provisions; or
- Not taking action on reported acts of gender-based sexual harassment committed in the workplace.
Any person who violates subsection (a) of this section, shall upon conviction, be penalized with a fine of not less than Five thousand pesos (PhP5,000.00) nor more than Ten thousand pesos (PhP10,000.00).
Any person who violates subsection (b) of this section, shall upon conviction, be penalized with a fine of not less than Ten thousand pesos (PhP10,000.00) nor more than Fifteen thousand pesos (PhP15,000.00).
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the private sector and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) for the public sector shall conduct yearly spontaneous inspections to ensure compliance of employers and employees with their obligations under R.A. 11313.
At any stage of the investigation, prosecution and trial of an offense under R.A. 11313, the rights of the victim and the accused who is a minor shall be recognized.
Where appropriate, the court, even before rendering a final decision, may issue an order directing the perpetrator to stay away from the offended person at a distance specified by the court, or to stay away from the residence, school, place of employment, or any specified place frequented by the offended person.