Courts should be a safe space: Sexist slurs, harassment punishable under 'Bawal Bastos' law

Aug 26, 2020

AS sports, predominantly, is a male-dominated field, women and gay athletes have a higher tendency to feel uncomfortable in the paint, given the significant gap between gender when it comes to participation and valid recognition in sports.

Although sports has been a great avenue to unite people of diverse backgrounds together, sexual harassment and discrimination among athletes is still unfortunately very rampant.

"[T]he same types of violence and abuse sometimes found in families and communities can also occur in sport and play programmes," said the UNICEF in a 2017 report.

Did you know that, in the Philippines, there is an existing law that tackles issues of gender-based harassment that reinforces serious repercussions to offenders?

The “Bawal Bastos” Law, or the Safe Spaces Act, enacted in 2019 penalizes sexual acts like catcalling, wolf-whistling, misogynistic and homophobic slurs, as well as other forms of harassment done in public spaces or privately-owned properties used by the public.


This, too, is applicable in sports and recreation.

According to the law's implementing rules and regulations, released last year, any person involved, regardless of ranking, can be possibly tagged as offenders. This includes “athletes themselves, coaches, parents, school officials, teachers, co-workers, members of the national sports association, leagues and clubs, advertisers, even gym owners, and people having authority, influence, or moral ascendancy over another in a work, training or education environment.”

For instance, while playing an afternoon basketball in the streets, and someone yells “Weak mo naman, bakla ka ba?”, you can file a legal case against them under the Safe Spaces Act. This sexist slur is punishable under Section 4 because a street court is a public space.

Depending on the punishable act’s gravity, the offender could be subject to 12 hours of community service, a gender sensitivity seminar, imprisonment up to six months, and a fine amounting to a maximum of P500,000.

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Moreover, inside privately owned learning institutions, coaches, teachers, trainers, and fellow athletes could also be considered offenders if the act had taken effect in altering the learning conditions inside the school, which should always remain a safe space.

It is the duty and responsibility of the administrators to come forward and report such instance.

Let's say a women’s volleyball team is training inside a school gymnasium, when a student-passerby blurted out a catcall offending the players. Even if the offender would later plead that they meant it only as a joke, this can lead to serious consequences. After all, the “Bawal Bastos” law does not tolerate the discriminatory culture present in the Philippine society. There is zero tolerance on any gender-based act as long as it is closely implemented and monitored by the authorities.

Other forms of harassment over the internet, like cyberbullying and online sexual harassment that can result to physical, psychological, and emotional threat and uncertainty, as well as misogynistic, homophobic, and sexist remarks (in both public posts or private messages), are also punishable by the act.


Also punishable under the law are “virtual stalking” and unnecessary messaging online.

In the world of sports, schools, institutions, clubs, and employers must take the responsibility to protect its athletes and subordinates from any form of sexual harassment.

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