Harassment law puts spotlight on Duterte

The law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte imposes penalties for

The law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte imposes penalties for"any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person in public spaces

"I thought, the mayor should have been first", he told supporters at a rally.

Last year, Duterte blamed a high number of rape offenses on "many handsome women" and admitted to having sexually assaulted his family's maid when he was a teenager.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a new law whereby catcalling and wolf-whistling, etc. are considered forms of sexual harassment and should carry punishment - up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of 500,000 pesos (US $9,750), the state media outlet Philippine News Agency reported.

The law extends to public leering, intrusive gazing, stalking and unwanted exposure, as well as commentary online.

Public spaces like bars, restaurants and cinemas will now be required to install clearly visible warning signs in addition to hotline contact information to report any offences.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended the president against critics, who point out that Duterte stands as the primary offender when it comes to sexual harassment, saying that Duterte is only joking when he says such things.

When Mr Duterte asked if she could explain to her husband that the action would be just a joke, she said yes, and the President leaned in and kissed her as the audience erupted in cheers.

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"I challenge the President to follow to the letter the very law he signed and set an example not only as a law-abiding citizen but as a leader who respects everyone", Hontiveros, among principal authors of the law, said in a statement.

"Duterte is the misogynist-in-chief", said Inday Espina-Varona, journalist and founder of the #BabaeAko, or I am Woman, campaign. Signing a law that he violates on a continuous basis is another indication that Duterte sees himself as above the law.

Philippine officials on Monday belatedly released a copy of Republic Act 11313, known as the "Safe Spaces Act", which President Rodrigo Duterte signed in April and penalizes such acts as catcalling, wolf-whistling and offensive sexual jokes.

He said she had been lovely, and that "the mayor should have been first, what a waste". "We need to test the law and make sure serves its goal", she wrote. This law represents a push towards equality and safety in the Philippines. But women's advocates say the country still lags in key areas: Abortion is illegal, and long-running efforts to legalize divorce have met resistance from some lawmakers and the Catholic Church.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo says when Duterte "cracks jokes, it's meant to make people laugh, never to offend".

Last year, Mr Duterte came under fire for publicly ordering troops to shoot female communist guerrillas in the genitals to render them "useless".

"As long as there are many handsome women, there will be more rape cases", he said in a speech in his home city of Davao previous year. Presided by a Filipino judge.

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