If it’s unwanted, it’s harassment
The Filipino Times dives into the issue of sexual assaults on Filipinas in the UAE and the reasons why everyone must not turn a blind eye
By Mark Nituma
Toiling hard overseas, away from loved ones, is a tough job by itself for anyone, especially among women―mothers who’ve left their little ones behind, singles but carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, and millennials who’re trying their luck to enter the workforce overseas.
Sometimes, the workspace that’s supposed to empower them becomes a site of struggle against intimidation and coercion of a sexual nature, which leaves them weak and defenseless. Hence, working abroad becomes even much tougher.
Two of the most recent assaults made against our modern-day-heroes, women, went viral on social media. There’s one who was pestered by her employer while she was doing chores at the sink. Another Filipina warned to commit suicide on Facebook, desperately asking for help. She’s crying while live streaming herself as she recounted the deplorable sexual advances of her employer. It’s important to note, however, that these assaults happen anywhere to anyone, not just among Filipinas.
In the UAE, sexual harassment, even in its seemingly “simplest” forms, such as throwing an unwanted sexual joke or touching someone’s hips, are taken as a serious offense.
Over the years, there had been a significant number of people who were meted out with weighty punishments and hefty fines, proving the keen eyes of the UAE’s judicial system for felons.
Nonetheless, there are just crooks and offenders the fangs of the law can neither eradicate nor fend off.
Rubbing her the wrong way
“I tried to push his hand away, but he just put it back.”
A 29-year-old Filipina who’d only been in Dubai for two weeks in December last year was molested by an Asian cabbie.
Her sponsor had reportedly asked her to ride a taxi to an address in Al Barsha. Since the Filipina was new in the Dubai then and was unsure about their route, she had to sit in front.
She recounted: “He was driving with his left hand while touching me with the other hand. I was so shocked and scared.”
“I tried to push his hand away, but he just put it back,” she added.
Her 42-year-old Canadian employer told officials: “I had to drive my car to pick her up as the taxi driver could not reach the location. But I was surprised to see her crying when she stepped off the taxi about 25 minutes later.”
The 43-year-old taxi driver was found guilty of a molestation charge by the Court of First Instance, who’ll be deported after serving his term.
The ‘close door’ elevator
“When I turned around and [asked] him, he just raised his hand in a gesture to tell me to stay quiet.”
A Filipina clerk accused an Asian man of sexual harassment, which allegedly took place in an elevator at a residential area in Dubai on July 25.
Reports said the 45-year-old suspect was produced in the Court of First Instance, but his camp denied the 25-year-old woman’s claim, saying: “The accused said he lived in the same building with the victim. He told us he must have touched her by mistake because the place was small.”
The Filipina said the man tried to keep her mum after slapping her: “I was waiting for the lift when the accused came from his flat and stood right behind me. I walked in and he suddenly slapped me.”
“When I turned around and [asked] him, he just raised his hand in a gesture to tell me to stay quiet,” she added.
Police said a CCTV footage of the building showed that the man was talking to the woman when they stepped out of the elevator.
When everybody else had left the office
“I cried bitterly and begged him to stop, but he didn’t. Then he groped me.”
On October 31, an Arab man appeared before the Dubai Court of First Instance, pleading not guilty to the charges of molestation filed by a Filipina co-worker.
According to the report by a local patch here, court records showed that the manager, 29, asked the Filipina to stay after the company’s closing hours to have a meeting with him. But the scene turned ugly as the employer allegedly groped and kissed her despite pushing him away to stop him.
The woman narrated that when she entered the manager’s office, her boss opened her shirt and groped her multiple times.
“I cried bitterly and begged him to stop, but he didn’t. Then he groped me. He continued harassing me physically and once he tried to kiss me, I pushed him away,” the Filipina told the prosecutors.
The ruling is set on December 17.
The numbers speak
These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. A media report in 2016, cited that “80 percent of women who experience harassment [in the UAE in 2015]- physical or verbal – do not report it”.
In the same year (2015), 90 percent of eve-teasing crimes reported in Dubai were related to indecent assault, according to Dubai Police, which received 377 calls, including 68 calls about violating women’s modesty in a public place and 169 complaints against people using “wired and wireless connectivity devices” to harass.
“This crime is a breach of modesty and those responsible will face imprisonment and other punitive measures, including deportation,” Colonel Mohammad Rashid Bin Saree Al Muhairi of the Dubai Police told the media.
Women who experience harassment, both physical or verbal, but do not report it
Eve-teasing crimes reported in Dubai related to indecent assault, as per Dubai Police
The number of calls received by Dubai Police, including 68 calls about violating women’s modesty in a public place, and 169 complaints against people using “wired and wireless connectivity devices” to harass
What happens if colleagues/employer in the UAE sexually harass you?
The UAE law incriminates any verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature.
Article (358) stipulates: “Whoever openly commits an indecent and disgraceful act shall be punished by detention for a period of at least six months.”
Article (359) stipulates: “Whoever attempts to disgrace a female by words or by deeds in a public street or frequented place, shall be punished by detention for a period not exceeding one year and by a fine not exceeding Dh10,000, or by either of these two penalties.”
Examples of sexual harassment
- Pressure for sexual favors
- Unwanted deliberate touching or pinching
- Unwanted sexual looks
- Unwanted sexual teasing or jokes
- Sexual comments about a person’s clothing or body
- Sexually suggestive gestures or signals
- Showing pornographic images or videos
- Spreading sexual rumors
No more silence. Report!
999 UAE Police Emergency hotline
800111 Dubai Foundation for Women and Children’s free of charge helpline service for all UAE residents. The line is open 24/7
+971 2 639 0006 Embassy of the Philippines in Abu Dhabi at W-48, Street No. 8, Sector 2-23, Plot 51, Al Qubaisat, Abu Dhabi. The embassy is open 8AM–5PM Sun-Thurs
+971 4 220 7100 Philippine Consulate General Dubai at Villa No. 234-851, Beirut Street, Al Qusais 3, Dubai. It’s open 8AM–3PM
“This crime is a breach of modesty and those responsible will face imprisonment and other punitive measures, including deportation.”