Editorial

Harassment

Posted on 2018/01/02

The op-ed section of The New York Times on December 15 published a personal ordeal of Salma Hayek, a Mexican actress who catapulted to international stardom through the action movie “Desperado,” working with the now infamous Hollywood film producer, Harvey Weinstein. Ms. Hayek is the latest voice of women celebrities who, after years of silence, have defied the norms in male-dominated movie industry by exposing Weinstein’s sexual improprieties. Unfortunately, predators like Weinstein are no respecter of victim’s station in life. Leveraging on social media, other victims from the world over – most of them have no celebrity status, also share their harrowing experience in the hands of powerful men, mostly in the workplace: halls of parliament, house of worship, tech industry, learning institutions. Global outrage and condemnation is swift and instantaneous that some powerful men have either been forced to resign or dismissed from their work. What has gone wrong with men?

Regardless of gender anyone can be a potential victim of sexual harassment; women by far represent the most number of victims. Already a global scourge, sexual harassment varies in form and gravity. Data compiled by Cable News Network (CNN) are alarming, among others: 35% of women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence; in Egypt, 99% of women surveyed across seven regions have experienced sexual harassment; in U.K, 64% of women have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places. In public transportation, the top choice of most countries to ease traffic congestion, groping is endemic that some women and girls prefer to stay at home. Huffingtonpost reported that in Latin America 6 in 10 women were physically harassed in public transportation. The top five cities in the world, according stopstreetharassment.org, where women are likely to experience groping in public transportation are: Mexico City, Bogota, Lima, Tokyo and Delhi. Government response to sexual harassment varies from country to country; some are proactive others have remained reactive. It was only in 2010 that Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, enacted a law that provides women-only train in public transportation to stem alarming cases of groping.

Sexual harassment entered the Philippine criminal statue only in 1995. The scope of Anti-Sexual Harassment Act (ASHA) is limited to acts committed in the employment, education and training environment, and the maximum penalty of imprisonment is no more than six months. The city health officer of Cagayan de Oro City, in the case of Dr. Rico Jacutin vs People of the Philippines, was the first offender to have received the application of law. Sexual harassment is also considered a form of violence against women in a separate penal law under Anti-violence against women and their children Act of 2004 (A-VAWC). In the enforcement of ASHA, private and government institutions are mandated to promulgate rules and regulations in their respective sphere of influence to address sexual harassment and provide sanctions to erring employees. It is noticeable, though, that of the recorded cases of sexual harassment, either in court or administrative bodies, almost all complainants are females, a stark contrast to media reports of sexual improprieties of priests in local churches and teachers and administrators in educational institutions. Months ago, a blind item in a local paper mentioned a male admin officer of a known private firm in Manila for preying on his younger male colleagues. Since no one filed a formal complaint for fear of reprisal, the guy remained ensconced in his position.

There are still gaps, arguably, in the country’s campaign for gender equality that are not addressed by existing sexual harassment policies and laws. Consider the results of 2016 Social Weather Station survey conducted in two barangays of Quezon City: 3 in 5 women have experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime; common form of harassment is wolf whistling followed by catcalling across age brackets; more harassers in school (55%) than out-of-school (45%); as to victim-blaming, more women than men think that it is the woman’s fault why she gets harassed; the top reason why women did nothing to sexual harassment, what happened was just negligible. Senator Grace Poe should be praised for filing an amendatory bill that will increase penalty of sexual harassment. Gender advocates are well aware that in the current penalty of ASHA no offender is likely to serve jail term. Local Government Units can do more to prevent the marginalization of women by leveraging the controversial five per cent (5%) Gender and Development (GAD) budget to empower women and develop their potential to the fullest. Again, this is no silver bullet to address the many tricks that some men have contrived to impose their alleged superiority over women.

Studies have shown that sexual harassment is not about sex but all about power. When powerful people, mostly men, harbor the unfounded belief that they have the unbridled freedom to impose their own will over the powerless, mostly female subordinates, power imbalance is created between men and women to the detriment of society. Sexual harassment thrives because society considers sexual improprieties of men as inherently normal; that the yardstick of what differentiates human being from ordinary animal applies only women. To restore order in society and maintain the equilibrium of gender voices, all areas of human interaction, be it in public of private spheres, be considered gender-free zone. Ordinary citizens need not wait for another global icon like Salma Hayek to join the chorus of condemnation against abuses of powerful men. The voices of powerless if properly channeled are more than enough to restrain if not decapitate the hands of powerful men from roving aimlessly to sacred and protected places. Happy New Year!


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Is an Non-Government Organization Catering Youth Services

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Liceo Legal Aid Center (LiLAC) doing business under the name and style of Center for Alternative Lawyering of Liceo is the legal aid center of Liceo de Cagayan University, a privately owned university based in Cagayan de oro City. The group is composed of law students, alumni of the College of Law of the University, and lawyers who are passionate in the practice of alternative lawyering. LiLAC is guided by its vision of a holistic formation of law students committed to the transformation of society by promoting justice, empowerment, unity and peace, through helping the marginalized sector of the depressed areas here in Mindanao, in the Philippines and in the world. While the group was registered only this year with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it has been providing services to marginalized communities in partnership with NGOs for more than 8 years now. LiLAC has more than 50 members, 15 of whom are taking the active role of running the groups activities.

e-mail:liceolegalaidcenter@gmail.com
twitter: twitter.com/liceolegalaid
facebook: fb.com/liceolegalaidrn

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The Mindanao State University Legal Aid Clinic or Mindanao SULAC for brevity, is the Legal Aid Clinic of Mindanao State University College of law. It is the first and currently the only one of its kind to be established in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It strives to cater the legal needs of the underprivileged and/or indigent clients of the Region and to help promote the proper administration of justice as a key to lasting peace in the region and in the country as a whole.

Office Address: 1F MSU College of Law Bldg.,
MSU Main Campus, Marawi City 9700 Philippines
Contact details:
Email: mindanaosulac@gmail.com
Mobile No.: (+63) 907 336 7762

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The Notre Dame university is a Catholic Institution in Cotabato City run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and member of the Notre Dame Educational Association Philippines.The Notre Dame University Legal Aid Center started sometime in 2009. Its members are the officially enrolled students of NDU-College of Law.

The following are the official pages and e-mail address of the group:
FB: fb.com/ndulac
twitter: twitter.com/ndulac
Instagram: instagram.com/ndulac
email: ndulac@gmail.com

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The Palawan Cradle of Rights is a unified composition of law students from Palawan State university school of Law, established last August 26, 2013 after the culminating activity of the Basic Orientation Seminar by the US Embassy in partnership with the MYVC.

Through our linkages and with the help of the different Government and Non-government organizations we aim to provide free access to people who need legal assistance.

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The University of Mindanao Legal Aid Network (ULAN) is a non-stock, non-profit, and service institution of the University of Mindanao. As a service institution, it provides legal assistance, advocates human rights and social justice, and facilitates the formation of law students for alternative lawyering. It consists of law students and alumni of the College of Legal Education of the University of Mindanao committed to provide an adequate and greater access to justice of the community through its programs.

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The CENTRO ADVOCACIA LEGAL is organized exclusively for charitable, socio-cultural and educational purposes, more specifically to serve the needs of the marginalized communities specifically children and youth and the minorities in Zamboanga City through Legal Aid Assistance and Human Rights Based Advocacies.