The many faces of sexual harassment in PH

The many faces of sexual harassment in PH
How do you know if you are being sexually harassed? Where do you draw the line? Here's what you need to know.

MANILA, Philippines – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is under fire after wolf whistling at a reporter in a press conference on Tuesday, May 31, and defending it days after by saying that it was “not a sexual thing.” 

A good number of netizens accept Duterte’s explanation that whistling at a woman is covered by freedom of expression. Others are certain that Duterte violated Davao City’s ordinance prohibiting catcalling women

What constitutes sexual harassment? Where do you draw the line?

What is sexual harassment?

In Section 3, Republic Act 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, classifies sexual harassment as:

Work-related or in employment environment

This is committed when a person demands, requests, or requires sexual favors from another person in exchange for another thing such as hiring for employment, re-employment, or continued employment, granting favorable compensation, terms of conditions, promotions, or privileges.

Refusal to accept sexual favors would mean discrimination or deprivation of employment opportunities.

It is also sexual harassment if the sexual favors would result to abuse of rights under the labor law and and an environment that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive for the victim.

This may be committed by an “employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, any other person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other.”

In education or training environment

This is committed when a person demands, requests, or requires sexual favors from a student in exchange for “giving a passing grade, or the granting of honors and scholarships, or the payment of a stipend, allowance or other benefits, privileges and considerations.”

Just the same, if the sexual favors would result to an “intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the student, trainee, or apprentice,” they are also considered sexual harassment.

This may be committed by a “teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence, or moral ascendancy over another…demands, requests, or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other.”

Forms of sexual harassment 

Under the Civil Service Commission Resolution Number 01-0940, a set of administrative rules for government employees, forms of sexual harassment include:

  • malicious touching
  • overt sexual advances
  • gestures with lewd insinuation
  • requests or demands for sexual favors, and lurid remarks
  • use of objects, pictures or graphics, letters or writing notes with sexual underpinnings
  • other forms analogous to the ones mentioned

Meanwhile, the Women’s Development Code of Davao City, which Duterte himself signed as mayor, aims to protect the rights of women by punishing those who committ sexual harassment, among other things. 

Under Section 3 of the ordinance, “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, made directly, indirectly or impliedly” can be considered sexual harassment.

The following are considered forms of sexual harassment:

  • persistent telling of offensive jokes, such as green jokes or other analogous statements to someone who finds them offensive or humiliating
  • taunting a person with constant talk about sex and sexual innuendos
  • displaying offensive or lewd pictures and publications in the workplace
  • interrogating someone about sexual activities or private life during interviews for employment, scholarship grant, or any lawful activity applied for
  • making offensive hand or body gestures at someone
  • repeatedly asking for dates despite verbal rejection
  • staring or leering maliciously
  • touching, pinching, or brushing up against someone’s body unnecessarily or deliberately
  • kissing or embracing someone against her will
  • requesting sexual favors in exchange for a good grade, obtaining a good job or promotion, etc
  • cursing, whistling, or calling a woman in public with words having dirty connotations or implications which tend to ridicule, humiliate or embarrass the woman such as “puta” (prostitute), “boring,” “peste” (pest), etc
  • any other unnecessary acts during physical examinations
  • requiring women to wear suggestive or provocative attire during interviews for job hiring, promotion, and admission

Street harassment is among the most common forms of sexual harassment. (READ: The streets that haunt Filipino women)

Sexual harassment in public spaces: “Unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.” – Stop Street Harassment Organization

Street harassment can happen in public places, such as in and around public transportation, public washrooms, church, internet shops, parks, stores and malls, school grounds, terminals, and waiting sheds.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, sexual harassment may happen in the following:

  • premises of the workplace or office or of the school or training institution
  • any place where the parties are found, as a result of work or education or training responsibilities or relations
  • work- or education- or training-related social functions
  • while on official business outside the office or school or training institution or during work- or school- or training-related travel
  • at official conferences, fora, symposia, or training sessions
  • by telephone, cellular phone, fax machine, or electronic mail

Women are most vulnerable

STREET HARASSMENT. Have you ever walked down the street and experienced verbal, physical, or sexual harassment?

The Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act, also known as Republic Act 9262, also considers sexual harassment as a form of violence against women.

Section 3 of the law says that sexual violence refers to “rape, sexual harassment, acts of lasciviousness, treating a woman or her child as a sex object, making demeaning and sexually suggestive remarks.”

A 2016 study conducted by the Social Weather Stations found that women are most vulnerable to sexual harassment.

In Quezon City, Metro Manila’s biggest city with a population of over 3 million, 3 in 5 women were sexually harassed at least once in their lifetime, according to the report. In barangays Payatas and Bagong Silangan, 88% of respondents ages 18 to 24 experienced street harassment at least once.

Across all ages, 12 to 55 and above, wolf whistling and catcalling are the most experienced cases. (READ:‘Hi, sexy!’ is not a compliment)

Quezon City is the first city in Metro Manila to impose penalties on street harassment.

In the Philippines, 58% of incidents of sexual harassment happen on the streets, major roads, and eskinitas (alleys). Physical forms of sexual harassment occur mostly in public transport.

Sexual harassment can be punished under Republic Act 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, and the provisions of the Revised Penal Code on Acts of Lasciviousness.

RA 7877 penalizes sexual harassment with imprisonment of 1 to 6 months, a fine of P10,000 to P20,000, or both. Acts of lasciviousness, on the other hand, would mean imprisonment under the Revised Penal Code. – Rappler.com 

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