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Safe spaces

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and in recognition of the “rampant sexism and misogyny” in public spaces, the Commission on Human Rights on Thursday called for the full and effective implementation of Republic Act No. 11313 or the Safe Spaces or “Bawal Bastos” Act, particularly in the transport sector.

Signed into law on April 17, 2019, RA 11313 penalizes all forms of gender-based sexual harassment in streets, public spaces, online, workplaces, and educational and training institutions.

CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit stressed the need for jeepney operators and drivers to drop the toxic messaging in public utility vehicles that had long been disrespectful to women.

“We know that the jeep is an icon in Philippine transportation, but there are many sexist and misogynistic messages found in it,” Gomez-Dumpit said, referring to the colorful signboards and illustrations carried by many jeepneys on the road which serve to encourage gender-based sexual harassment, discrimination and machismo disguised as jokes.

The CHR launched its “Safe Spaces Now: Right the Ride Campaign” as part of its contribution to the drive to end violence against women which includes efforts to transform sexist signages into positive messages to help “right the ride.”

Filipino women have suffered from sexist and misogynistic behavior for too long, in a country where such behavior, when made by those in positions of power and influence, has been tolerated or even idolized. Perhaps it is only right that this time we start correcting that behavior with the Filipino icon that is the ubiquitous jeepney.

If the country cannot immediately become a safe space with the passing of a law, and our leaders are not being good role models, the CHR may have the right idea by making the jeepney safer spaces for all, starting with the mindset of the drivers and operators who should be fully in charge of their public utility vehicles.*

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