What Is 'Bawal Bastos' Law and Why it Matters to Your Family
Manila/ Ohana/ Family

What Is 'Bawal Bastos' Law and Why it Matters to You and Your Family


Catcalling is not a compliment!

If you’re a woman passing through a group of men alone, chances are you’ve been catcalled multiple times, regardless of what you are wearing.

In Quezon City alone, the largest city in Metro Manila, three out of five women experienced street harassment, 88% of whom were aged 18–24 years old. The incidents mainly involved stalking and groping on public transportation, major roads, and eskinitas (narrow alleys), the UN Women reported via GMA News Online in 2016.

From wolf-whistling to making lewd gestures and uttering sexist slurs, catcalling is often dismissed as harmless; however, this culture may inflict serious psychological consequences for its victims, regardless of gender. Remember, street harassment is illegal and should never be tolerated. In 2019, Former President Rodrigo Duterte signed the “Bawal Bastos” law or the Safe Spaces Act (Republic Act 11313) of 2018 in a bid to promote respect and ensure safety and equality for all. Under this legislation, it punishes catcalling, making offensive body gestures, stalking, and other gender-based harassment both in public spaces and online.

“It is the policy of the state to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights. It is likewise the policy of the state to recognize the role of women in nation-building and ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men,” the law stated.

Violators may face penalties ranging from P1,000 to P100,000 and a mandatory 12-hour community service inclusive of attendance at a Gender Sensitivity Seminar to be conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in coordination with the local government unit and the Philippine Commission on Women.

How to Handle It

If someone tries to harass you, consider scaring them by pretending to call the police and reporting their offensive behavior. Make sure to project confidence through body language—make eye contact and walk away with your head held high.

Alternatively, if you are non-confrontational and you feel like your safety is threatened, go somewhere else: cross the street, change your route to a safe location like a convenience store or coffee shop, or seek help from a security guard or police.

To formally report the incident, you may go to barangay and police stations or file a direct complaint with the prosecutor’s office. Additionally, you may reach out to the Inter-Agency Council on Violence Against Women and their Children (IACVAWC) which conducts programs and projects to combat VAWC. For immediate assistance, you may check the helplines via this link.


Standard of Proof

To make sure that perpetrators of these criminal behaviors will be held accountable, write down the details of the incident right after it happens. This should include the date, time, location, and most importantly, the specific words and actions taken by the catcaller. If there were any witnesses to the incident, ask them if they would be willing to provide a statement or testify on your behalf.

If you feel safe doing so, you can use your phone to record audio or video of the incident. In case the harassment happened near an establishment, victims, with the help of police and authorities, have the right to request access to the CCTV footage, especially when ordered by the court.

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