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The numbers are alarming: Sexual harassment vs women in PHL

The first survey on sexual harassment and violence against women in the Philippines revealed the alarming number of women who have experienced sexual harassment of any kind in the country—and the equally alarming response to victims of harassment and abuse.

During a press conference in Quezon City Museum on Monday, UN Women (the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) released the statistics of the survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) last year.

In Quezon City

For the baseline study, 400 female and 400 male residents, from 12 to 75 years old, of Barangays Payatas and Bagong Silangan were tapped. The study has a +-3% error margin at the 95% confidence level.

Sexual harassment, defined as unwanted attentions forced on victims due to their actual or perceived gender, manifest in different ways.

Three in 5 women have experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime, the study revealed. Over 34% of them were victims of flashing, public masturbation, and groping.

The highest instances in all age ranges are cases of wolf whistling, lascivious language, and exhibitionism and public masturbation.

Other forms include stalking, voyeurism, groping, rubbing, touching, cat-calling, indecent gestures, cyberviolence, and sending of pornographic pictures and videos.

Not a trivial annoyance

"People think you should be grateful [and] that it's a compliment, or people think that it's such a trivial annoyance and you should just let it go," said Katherine Belen, National Project Officer of the Safe Cities Programme, which launched in Quezon City last April.

"The reason why [the issue] is just picking up is that it's not recognized as something that is important or...a violation of women's rights," she added.

UN Women only took up the issue in 2010, launching the “Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls,” a global initiative protecting the victims of sexual harassment.

The recent study was conducted in line with the program, in coordination with the Quezon City government.

UN Women hopes that the other local government units in Metro Manila will take up the fight against the sexual harassment of women and join the initiative.

"Women at 35 or 40 years old or so...tell us their story and they still remember the first time they were harassed in a jeep when they were 14. It's more than just  trivial annoyance," Belen said. — BM, GMA News