MANILA The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, commonly known as UN Women, on Monday urged the government to utilize its gender and development (GAD) fund to implement measures preventing sexual harassment in the country.
The call was made by Charisse Jordan, national project officer of the UN Women Philippines on the sidelines of the "She For She" Forum, organized by the French Embassy in Manila and held at the SMX Convention Center in Taguig City.
A UN Women's baseline study shows three out of five women in the country experience sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime. This means one in seven women experience sexual harassment at least once weekly.
Jordan defined sexual harassment as an umbrella term to acts that differ on severity such as cursing, catcalling, wolf-whistling, stalking, groping to rape.
"It's an everyday reality for us. We live on a daily basis experiencing sexual harassment and that is what the UN Women wants to address," Jordan said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.
The proposed national law on catcalling and other forms of sexual harassment in public spaces is still pending. Jordan said the government, in the meantime, can allocate funds on programs preventing and responding to such acts.
"One can send a strong message that sexual harassment in public spaces, and violence against women and girls will not be tolerated," she said.
Even without the policy, Jordan said the government should undertake preventive measures to address the issue.
"At this point, mentioning resources, we do have GAD budget, it should be invested and it should be utilized for programs on violence against women, including sexual harassment. In a community, the women should be aware that they can report such cases and at the same time there should be visible law enforcement," she added.
At present, UN Women is working with city governments to implement their flagship program, Safe Cities and Safe Spaces Global program.
One example of this is Quezon City, which was the first to implement a policy of penalizing catcalling and other forms of sexual harassment in public spaces.
"That is what we want to encourage other local government (to do)," Jordan said.
According to Quezon City Administrator Aldrin CuAa, who was also a speaker at the forum, the city was the first to pass the legislation of its kind.
While it was signed in 2016, CuAa said they still need to strengthen information dissemination.
To date, there had been nine formal complaints of catcalling since the city ordinance was passed, with two perpetrators prosecuted.
Support from private sector
Jordan said the private sector can also contribute by partnering with the government, particularly on the awareness campaign.
"There is a fertile ground, there is a lot of opportunity where the private sector, together with the government, together with the community, to work together to do something about putting an end to sexual harassment," she told the PNA.
While there are gains, especially with the Quezon City taking initiative to protect girls in public spaces, there are still a lot to be done, said Jordan.
"We need information, we need more public discussion," she stressed.
"Yes it is a long way to go because we need to challenge all these myths, all these beliefs, including victim blaming, that women are calling for it because of what they wear, that's what we want to challenge," she added. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency