Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Sunday said that the time was ripe to revisit the country’s sexual harassment laws and increase the penalties provided by statute “both as a deterrent, and as proof of government’s unwavering commitment to protecting and upholding gender rights.”

“Republic Act 9262, the Violence Against Women and Children Law was passed in 2004, more than a decade ago. Republic Act 7877, the Anti Sexual Harassment Act is even much older. It was passed in 1995. We must update and toughen these laws to be able to adjust to the demands of the times”, the Senate chief said.

“The Philippines has been a trendsetter and pioneer in women’s rights. We have produced two female Presidents. We granted Filipino women the right of suffrage in 1937, even before many of the modern republics in Asia were born. It’s incumbent upon us today to protect not only women’s political rights but their civil rights as well, those that protect the dignity of their persons.”

There has been increased focus on sexual harassment and women’s rights lately with reports of sexual abuse and intimidation in show business and sports in the United States, dragging previously illustrious names such as Hollywood producer Harvery Weinstein and gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Closer to home, meanwhile, Dr. Carmen Valdes, president of the Assumption College all-female educational institution, revealed in a recently-released book this month that she was repeatedly sexually abused during her childhood.

“The law should be a strong shield that provides protection to victims of harassment, and stiff penalties to offenders and would-be offenders. I’m planning to direct the appropriate Senate Committees to look into increasing the penalties for acts of sexual harassment and sexual abuse”, Pimentel noted.

“For example, under the 1995 Harassment Law, those convicted only face imprisonment not more than six months or a fine of not morethan P20,000. We should update these penalties to reflect modern realities. As a lawyer and legislator, I consider sexual harassment as one of the sickest and most deplorable offenses that can be committed because it goes into the very dignity of the victim.”

 

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