SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS AGAINST THE LAW, AGAINST THE POLICY OF THE STATE, IS PUNISHABLE BY IMPRISONMENT, SHALL NOT BE TOLERATED AT ALL TIMES, AND IT IS NOT JUST AGAINST WOMEN BUT IT IS ALSO AGAINST MEN.
I have heard of women who got frozen in the middle of trauma of getting violated further and of denial that something wrong did happen to them. I have heard of men who had to keep it to themselves because, in the sphere of sexual harassment, who would listen to men’s complaints? “They must have liked it anyway.” And in the middle of the paralysis and preconceived notions is the inclination to just let it go, shove it down, suppress the truth at the expense of justice and to never talk about it anymore. If I stop thinking about it… maybe it did not happen.
The State (Republic of the Philippines), under the principle of parens patriae, made it as a policy to value dignity and to declare all forms of sexual harassment unlawful and thus intolerable. Republic Act No. 7877 (RA 7877) also known as the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 was enacted to penalize sexual harassment in work, educational, or training-related environment.
Note: This law is limited to sexual harassment done within the specified environment. So if you got sexually harassed by a stranger, let’s say, in a Philippine jeepney, this is not the law applicable. Other sexual harassments may fall under Art. 366 (Acts of Lasciviousness), and Art. 287 (Light Coercions/Unjust Vexation) of the Revised Penal Code. For other circumstances present, see Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) Act of 2004 and Republic Act No. 7610 or the Child Abuse Law.
So when do I know “it really did happen”?
Do my body parts have to be brushed or touched before sexual harassment have to be committed? No. Malicious staring or unwanted attention with sexual overtones from someone at your work or school already constitutes sexual harassment. Stealing a look at someone’s private parts also constitutes sexual harassment.
What is Sexual Harassment?
To give you a proper context, Section 3 of RA 7877 provides for three components of sexual harassment – the who, the where, and the what (what was committed, who committed it, and where it was committed). It states:
Work, Education or Training related Sexual Harassment is committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence, or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said Act.
- WHAT – demands, requests, or requirements of any sexual favor whether accepted by the object of said act.
- WHO – employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person having influence or moral ascendancy.
- WHERE – in a work or training or education environment. (See list below):
- in the premises of the workplace or office or of the school or training institution;
- in any place where the parties were found, as a result of work or education or training responsibilities or relations;
- at 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; or
- by telephone, cellular phone, fax machine or electronic mail.
In explaining what “demand, requests, or requirements of any sexual favor” is, the Supreme Court in Bacsin v. Wahiman, G.R. No. 146053, April 30, 2008, states:
“xxx the demand of a sexual favor need not be explicit or stated. In Domingo v. Rayala, it was held, It is true that this provision calls for a demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor. But it is not necessary that the demand, request, or requirement of a sexual favor be articulated in a categorical oral or written statement. It may be discerned, with equal certitude, from the acts of the offender. The CSC found, as did the CA, that even without an explicit demand from petitioner his act of mashing the breast of AAA was sufficient to constitute sexual harassment. Moreover, under Section 3 (b) (4) of RA 7877, sexual harassment in an education or training environment is committed (w)hen the sexual advances result in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the student, trainee or apprentice.”
In the case of Atty. Susan M. Aquino vs. Hon. Ernesto D. Acosta, A.M. No. CTA-01-1. April 2, 2002, the Supreme Court laid down the elements of work-related sexual harassment and it states:
“a) In a work-related or employment environment, sexual harassment is committed when:
1) The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or in the employment, re-employment or continued employment of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms, conditions, promotions or privileges; or the refusal to grant sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in anyway would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employees;
2) The above acts would impair the employee’s right or privileges under existing labor laws; or
3) The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.’
“Clearly, under the foregoing provisions, the elements of sexual harassment are as follows:
1) The employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person has authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another;
2) The authority, influence or moral ascendancy exists in a working environment;
3) The employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, or any other person having authority, influence or moral ascendancy makes a demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor.”
What does “any sexual favor” look like?
Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 01-0940 sheds light on the classification of sexual harassment – grave, less grave, and light offenses.
- Unwanted touching of private parts of the body (genitalia, buttocks and breasts);
- Sexual assault;
- Malicious touching;
- Demanding sexual favor in exchange for employment, promotion, local or foreign travels, favorable working conditions or assignments, a passing grade, granting of honors, scholarships and benefits or payment of stipend or allownance; and
- Other analogous cases.
- Unwanted touching or brushing against a victim’s body;
- Pinching not falling under grave offenses;
- Derogatory or degrading remarks or innuendos directed toward the members of one sex or one’s sexual orientation or used to describe a person;
- Verbal abuse or threats with sexual overtones; and
- Other analogous cases.
- Persistently telling sexist / smutty jokes or sending these through cellular phones (text), internet (electronic mail) or other similar means, causing embarrassment or offense and carried out after the offender has been advised that they are offensive or embarrassing or, even without such advise, when they are by their nature clearly embarrassing, offensive or vulgar;
- Malicious leering or ogling;
- Surreptitiously looking or stealing a look at a persons’ private part or worn undergarments (voyeurism);
- The display of sexually offensive pictures, materials or graffiti;
- Unwelcome inquiries or comments about a person’s sex life;
- Unwelcome sexual flirtation, advances, and propositions;
- Making offensive hand or body gestures at an official or employee;
- Persistent unwanted attention with sexual overtones;
- Unwelcome phone calls with sexual overtones causing discomfort, embarrassment, offense or insult to the receiver; and
- Other analogous cases.
So what should I do when sexual harassment was committed against me?
Report it to your institution’s authority right away. Better yet, submit a written complaint. If you are a government employee, file a complaint affidavit to the Committee on Decorum and Investigation of your agency and make sure it has Certificate of Non-Forum shopping attached to it. Under the law, the employer or head of office is mandated to act on it immediately upon being informed by the offended party. Otherwise, he or she or they will be solidarily liable.
Q: Does the sexual favor need to be rejected before it constitutes sexual harassment?
A: No. Section 3 of the said act provides that any demand, request, or requirement for any sexual favor whether accepted by object of said act.
Q: Is employer/employee relationship required before one becomes liable for sexual harassment done?
A: No. Section 3 states that any other person having influence or moral ascendancy may be liable for sexual harassment which means that employer/employee relationship is not required.
Q: If employer/employee relationship does not need to exist, may a stranger, not related by work or training, commit a sexual harassment under RA 7877?
A: No. This law only covers sexual harassment in work, education, or training-related environment.
Q: How is sexual harassment done in an education or training-related environment?
- Against one who is under the care, custody or supervision of the offender;
- Against one whose education, training, apprenticeship or tutorship is entrusted to the offender;
- When the sexual favor is made a condition to the giving of a passing grade, or the granting of honors or scholarships, or the payment of a stipend, allowance or other benefits, privileges, or consideration; or
- When the sexual advances result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the student, trainee or apprentice.
Q: What is the penalty for someone liable for sexual harassment under RA 7877?
A: Imprisonment for not less than one (1) month nor more than 6 months and/or (at court’s discretion) a fine of not less than 10,000.00 Php (around 200 USD) nor more than 20,000.00 Php (around 400 USD).
Cover image not mine. Retrieved from this site.