Content warning: The article tackles and mentions scenarios of sexual violence and harassment
What do I do if I get sexually harassed?
On Aug. 28, we launched our Instagram live series #PreenPSA with the first episode tackling women’s access to justice for sexual harassment. For the collaborative initiative with artists and opinion leaders, we’re trying to deepen conversations on various sociopolitical topics and explore solutions by sharing our platforms with organizations for social change.
These past few months, we saw the rise in the number of women who, empowered by and rallying behind the #HijaAko movement, bravely shared their experiences with sexual violence. Frankie Pangilinan, whose response to Ben Tulfo’s victim-blaming tweet inspired #HijaAko, hosted the live chat with guest speaker Jelen Paclarin, executive director of the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB).
WLB is a feminist legal non-government organization composed of women’s rights activists, advocates and development workers. They provide training and conduct research for women in schools and communities. They have also done advocacy work with Congress to amend archaic or discriminatory laws against women.
Here are the talking points for those looking for a refresher or for that friend you wish was able to catch it.
What acts fall under sexual harassment?
One of the scenarios which Jelen asked Frankie and the audience to identify as an example of sexual harassment was this: a group of friends shouting “ganda” every time a woman passes by.
The Safe Spaces Act defines sexual harassment in streets, public spaces, online, workplaces and education or training institutions as crimes. This includes catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, homophobic and sexist slurs, persistent uninvited comments, relentless requests for personal details and statement of sexual comments among others.
What are the justice options for survivors of sexual harassment both in the moment and after the fact?
A survivor can file a case through the Philippine National Police (PNP) or look for the anti-sexual harassment enforcers (ASHE) deputized by PNP and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in the streets or in public spaces.
For school or office-related crimes, institutions are mandated to create a committee on decorum and investigation (CODI) or an office to receive and investigate complaints of gender-based sexual harassment.
What are steps we can take to change a culture that trivializes sexual harassment?
Two important points WLB raised are: Don’t assume and start with an attitude of belief.
For those touchy people, especially men, it’s not okay to assume that giving remarks about or gazing at women’s bodies or invading their personal space is fine.
Believe survivors. Opening up about a traumatic experience is a hard thing to do. Jelen shares that a survivor’s life may also be at stake whenever people choose not to be on their side.
Are protections in place for trans women who experienced sexual harassment?
Under the Safe Spaces Act, transphobic remarks are also prohibited.
We are in this together
Paclarin’s rallying message for the audience was this: “Kapit-kamay tayo dito at sama-sama tayo bilang parte ng isang malakihang kilusan laban sa karahasan sa kababaihan.”
Most women have been silenced and it may take time before a person can be ready to recount their experience with sexual harassment. It helps a lot when we claim spaces in order to address sexism and challenge the culture that promotes violence. We must also rise up against misconceptions and gender stereotyping that are deeply entrenched in our society. “Ipakita natin ang lakas ng boses ng mga batang babae at kababaihan,” says Paclarin.