Sexual harassment is a harsh reality that a lot of women all over the world face. According to the United Nations Entity for Gender and the Empowerment of Women, for example, studies in Asia--including the Philippines--have shown that 30 to 40 percent of women suffer sexual harassment in the workplace.

Are you on the receiving end of constant "green" jokes from a male officemate? Has he touched, hugged, or kissed you without your permission? Would you simply like to be prepared in case of an emergency? Read on for a quick primer on sexual harassment and how to deal if it happens to you.

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DEFINITION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

According to this United Nations document, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature.” It can be verbal (making sexual innuendos), non-verbal (making suggestive gestures) and physical (touching someone in a sexually explicit manner). Sexual harassment can refer to such mild acts as whistling, winking, cat calls, and licking one’s lips, as well as grave offenses like being forced to perform sexual acts and at worst, rape.

The UN document lists the following behaviors as constituting sexual harassment (in no particular order):
• Unwanted sexual looks or gestures
• Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions
• Sexual comments
• Turning work discussions to sexual topics
• Touching an employee’s clothing, hair, or body
• Sexually suggestive signals
• Standing close to or brushing up against a person
• Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking
• Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, pinching, or cornering
• Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person, among other things.


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PHILIPPINE LAWS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Republic Act No. 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, is the country’s standing legislation against sexual harassment.

Section 7 lists the penalties to be exacted against those who violate the Anti Sexual-Harassment Act: “Any person who violat es the provisions of this Act shall, upon conviction, be penalized by imprisonment of not less than one (1) month nor more than six (6) months, or a fine of not less than Ten thousand pesos (P10,000) nor more than Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000), or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.”

You can read the complete act here, courtesy of the Chan Robles Virtual Law Library.


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HOW TO DEAL WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Here are three quick tips to remember when you are faced with sexual harassment.

1. LET THE OFFENDER KNOW THAT WHAT HE/SHE IS DOING IS WRONG.

This eHow.com article counsels that you should be up front with anyone who is acting inappropriately toward you. Tell them directly that their behavior is unacceptable and unwanted—and that there will be consequences if it persists.

2. REPORT THE ACT OF HARASSMENT IMMEDIATELY.

It is important that you alert management or whoever is in charge of the place where you were harassed. If the offender is the person in charge, this Ezinearticles.com article suggests you file a report with the police—particularly if the harassment you experienced constitutes a serious offense.

3. DOCUMENT YOUR EXPERIENCE.

Make sure you have evidence to back up your claims. This About.com article advises keeping a detailed journal about each incident of harassment, regardless of how minor, as well as compiling “any offensive letters, photographs, notes, or cards” that the harasser has given to or posted about you. You should also take photos or videos of any incident when possible.

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(Originally published as "On Yasmien Kurdi filing sexual harassment charges vs. Baron Geisler: How to deal if it happens to you" on Female Network; with additional reporting by Belle Yambao; screencaps from Brilliant Lies courtesy of Bayside Pictures and Beyond Films)

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