ABU DHABI // Filipinas living in the UAE say sexual harassers target them in shops, on the streets, at work and at social events.
A 39-year-old woman in the capital who participated in a survey conducted earlier this month by Illustrado magazine said she was even propositioned by a man at a grocery store meat counter.
A 41-year-old office administrator recounted how three teenage boys grabbed her from behind in a busy street in Dubai. It was a fellow guest at a dinner party that made a 48-year-old housewife in Dubai feel "so uncomfortable".
"My husband and daughter were playing ball outside," she said. "We were the only Filipinos in this party and this man came up to me and spoke in Tagalog. In the middle of the conversation he said 'I really like Filipinas and in fact, I like you'."
The next day, she received a call from the man. "He started asking me all sorts of questions such as when we'll meet up and where I lived. I told him that I was happily married."
Another Filipina, who did not take part in the survey, and who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said a client threatened to withdraw a contract if she declined his invitation.
"He told me, 'I'll award you the contract. Can we have dinner one weekend or go swimming somewhere?'" She lost the contract when she refused.
She said another client told her: "I have the visas here, but my back hurts. Can you massage me?"
"Sexual harassment is a worldwide phenomenon and is not limited to the Gulf region," said Rima Sabban, an associate professor of sociology at Zayed University. "It gets more problematic in places where there is no control over male behaviour, where women are seen as sexual objects and men think that they can get away with it."
In the UAE, the state protects women against sexual harassers. "The Government and the police here are trying to go after men who commit such acts," she said.
There are varying levels of sexual harassment, and untoward incidents that women would rather ignore.
“You get over it and move on,” Prof Sabban said, adding that even in the West there is a culture of shame and blame where people question what a victim did to attract sexual harassment.