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So what do we mean when we talk about sexual harassment – what is it, and what’s so bad about it?
On this page you’ll find lots of information that might be useful when making your film – and maybe some answers to a few questions that you have already. Just click on the questions below to find out more.
1. What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is any unwanted, unwelcome or uninvited behaviour of a sexual nature that can make a person feel humiliated, intimidated or offended.
Sexual harassment is not based on mutual attraction, friendship or respect. Sexual harassment is when the harassment is of a sexual nature or relates to a person’s gender or sexuality. For example two women friends might compliment each other on their clothes. However if the comments are made by a male to a female, it might make the female feel uncomfortable or intimidated. In that case, it could be considered sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is defined by what is considered offensive by the victim, and not the intent of the harasser. “I was just joking” is not a defence against sexual harassment. Making a woman feel uncomfortable or intimidated is never a joke.
Sexual harassment is about power and control, not what clothes people wear, what job they have or who they are friends with. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, not just to ‘bad girls’. The harasser makes the choice to harass their victim, and it is never the victim’s fault.
Sexual harassment can take many different forms and may be physical, verbal or non-verbal.
Examples of verbal sexual harassment
Rude or sexual language, jokes or innuendo – calling out to women in the street, making sexual comments as they walk past
Repeated propositions or requests for sexual favours or dates
Comments of a sexual nature (for example, calling sexual names or asking questions of a sexual nature, including about a person’s sexual orientation)
Invading personal privacy inside or outside school or the workplace (for example, harassing telephone calls, or following a woman home)
Suggesting sexual favours in exchange for favours or employment
Threats of assault or forced sexual acts.
Examples of non-verbal sexual harassment
Showing or displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, magazines, posters or cartoons, including on your phone
Leering and staring at women, or crude hand or body gestures
Uninvited touching, kissing, embracing, massaging, or brushing against the body
Actual assault or forced sexual acts.
2. What’s so bad about sexual harassment?
Even if sexual harassment does not leave cuts and bruises, it still hurts people and affects their lives. When sexual harassment makes a woman feel frightened, intimidated, or offended it can lead to:
A lack of confidence in public spaces, or not wanting to leave the home
Suffering and humiliation
Bad eating and sleeping habits
A loss of trust in men, particularly unknown men
Lack of motivation, loss of confidence or self-esteem, depression, anger, anxiety and irritability
Accidents, long-term ill health and an inability to work or go to school
Development of physical and/or psychological disorders, or lead to tobacco, alcohol or drug abuse and other addictions
Lost financial security due to lost work, cost of increased security measures, absenteeism, accidents, illness, and disability.
Many women work to support their family. If a woman quits her job due to sexual harassment in the workplace, or on her way to or from work, it could mean she would be without income for her family. That is a serious consequence. If a young woman was to stop going to school because of sexual harassment, it can impact on her education, her future ability to earn money, and her sense of safety in the world.
3. Is sexual harassment illegal?
Freedom from sexual harassment is a human right contained in international law. Human rights are universal, and are supported in Cambodia.
Certain acts of sexual harassment are against Cambodia’s Labour Law and the Criminal Code 2009. By working to prevent all sexual harassment, you reduce the risk that one of these serious incidents will happen in your community.
4. What do men need to understand about sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment in the street is more common than men think. It happens to almost all women. But it can be hard for men to understand how sexual harassment makes a woman feel, and why they should not engage in this behaviour.
As a man, think about this: how would you like it if other men who are larger than you regularly interrupt you in the street and tell you to smile? How would you feel if they made kissing noises when you walk past, or commented on your looks or your body? What if they asked for your name, your phone number, follow you, try to touch you, or start touching themselves in front of you?
Would it make you feel angry? Embarrassed? Frustrated? Want to avoid walking down that street? Afraid of bumping into them again? Can you imagine feeling that fear or embarrassment every day? This is how women feel when they are sexually harassed. And the women being harassed are your mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, co-workers, neighbours and classmates. How do you feel about other men making these comments to them?
It is important to understand that we cannot have gender equality when we have sexual harassment. Women deserve respect and have the same right to exist undisturbed in public spaces as men. Violence against women is endemic around the world, and disrespect for women is a primary reason.
But some men say they can’t control themselves when they see a beautiful woman.
We can all behave appropriately, which means that sometimes we have to control our behaviour. For example, we know it is rude to yell at people, even if we are angry. And we know we can’t spend all our money on gambling when we have responsibilities to our families. Men also should be expected to show control, and the beauty of a woman is no excuse not to. Before men compliment a woman, they should think about how it might make her feel. If there is a chance it will not make her feel good, men should control their impulses.
What if a woman acts sexy or wears sexy clothes?
All women have the right to be free from sexual harassment no matter how they look or what they wear. Men should be expected to control themselves. Sexual harassment is never a victim’s fault, and it's not a compliment. Sexual harassment is a form of violence and abuse with serious consequences, and a woman’s clothing is no excuse for bad behaviour.
5. What can I do about sexual harassment?
As a man, you have a choice to not harass people on the street, and the power to do so. You should exercise that choice and power.
Ask yourself, would it be okay to speak to a man this way? Is this comment okay to a man? Would I look at a man this way – would he find it admiring or flattering? If not, nor would a woman. If there is something that you wouldn’t say to a man, don’t say that same thing to a woman.
You can talk to your friends if you see them behaving in this way. Ask them how they’d feel if that woman was your sister. Explain to them that real men don’t harass women – we know better than that.
Men should get involved in the struggle for gender equality, and seek to change harmful norms and practices of masculinity, simply because it is the right thing to do. Women and girls have the same rights as men and boys.
What if this was your sister?
“I do things like put my hair up in a certain way that means it’s hard to be grabbed at or if
I’m really scared I hold my keys between my fingers. I wear my headphones with the music turned up in town so I don’t have to hear catcalls. I walk at a certain distance from groups of men in front of me. If they are behind me, I take a different route. This is all just normal to me now. It’s normal for a lot of women I know. It happens every day.”
Photo credits: CARE/GMBFilms
The #WHYSTOP Short Film Competition is managed by GoodMorningBeautifulFilms for CARE Cambodia. This campaign is made possible with funding from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women and the Australian Government. #WHYSTOP is also sponsored by Major Cineplex by cellcard, Sabay News and Sony.