March is Women’s Month and there are various activities to celebrate it as well as issues that need to be addressed such as street, school, home and office harassment. This is a very serious matter/offense that women these days still suffer from. Some have kept quiet and there are those who have become vocal about it. We must unite as one regardless of gender, so we can finally put a stop and bring those who have offended into justice.

Did you know that three out of five women have experienced a form of sexual harassment while commuting in Metro Manila? According to a new research, “Baseline Study on How safe are women in our city streets” commissioned by Quezon City local government and United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN Women) and even more alarming is that 1 in 3 of these women experienced the worst forms of sexual harassment such as witnessing male public exposure and masturbation, and rubbing or groping (panghihipo) inside the MRT/ jeepneys.

Womens Month Stop Street Harassment
Glaiza de Castro is the new UN Women Safe Cities celebrity supporter
Photo: Phil Daily Inquirer, Jodi Agoncillo

To put a stop to street harassment and sexual violence against women and girls (SVAWG) in public spaces, the LGU and UN Women held back-to-back events to commemorate International Women’s Day (#IWD2016) as well as to kick-off the celebrations in March as the National Women’s Month.

Womens Month Stop Street Harassment
Photo: Pat Buenaobra

The first activity for Women’s Month was a press conference at the QCX Museum, which saw the launch of the research, also revealed that the Quezon City Local Government just passed amendments to the Gender and Development Code increasing penalties for sexual harassment and sexual violence against women in public spaces to a range of one to five thousand pesos (Php1,000 to Php5,000) for the varying severity of offenses.

Whether due to shame or fear, women traditionally ignore and keep silent about catcalls, wolf-whistling, stalking, repeated harassment for their numbers, even bearing indecent language being yelled at them by men as they walk by.Women experience all these forms of sexual harassment as they move about in the city, using public transport, terminals, markets/malls, and even just walking home in their own neighborhoods.

Womens Month Stop Street Harassment
Photo: Pat Buenaobra

During the press conference discussing the problem of the frequent street harassment of women, De Castro observed, “We know about it, we are offended by it, but we don’t know how to prevent it.” The research reported that eighty-eight percent (88%)of women aged 18-24 years, have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lives, but more than half do not report or do anything about it.

This is why the LGU partnered with UN Women to implement the Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative. QC is the first city in Metro Manila to be one of over 24 cities around the world in the programme to stop street harassment and sexual violence against women and girls (SVAWG) in public spaces with funding from Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID).

Womens Month Stop Street Harassment
Photo: Pat Buenaobra

The second event was a grand assembly of 1000 supporters who released sky lanterns to light up the Quezon City skyline and called for safe cities where women are free from fear and free from all forms of street harassment and sexual violence.

It was a visual spectacle where supporters of women’s right to safety in the city banded together to celebrate the spirit of community fighting to stop street harassment of women. Hosted by PTV4’s Good Morning Boss talents, Jules Guiang and Karla Paderna, the event was graced by musical performances from Cooky Chua and Bayang Barrios.

Womens Month Stop Street Harassment
Photo: Pat Buenaobra

Guiang expressed, “This is such an important issue and we are grateful that for the first time we have a programme on women’s safety in public spaces and educating everyone that sexual harassment of women in any form is not acceptable.”

Let us all enjoin and be aggressive in fighting this battle, for all the women in your lives. Celebrate Women’s Month and be an advocate of any relevant issues/activities as your own small way of helping.