When does friendly banter cross the line?

Just how far is too far, when it comes to a show of affection?

Even as people are due to appear at Hong Lim Park today in support of Singapore's version of the international protest movement SlutWalk, the region has been gripped by the developing sexual harassment scandal in the Hong Kong TV industry.

Starlet Rose Chan, 19, has reported two of her fellow actors to the police after paparazzi photos emerged showing the men hugging and kissing her. Controversy has further swirled over whether she was a willing participant in the incident. (See report on Page 10.)

In a convention to eliminate discrimination against women, the United Nations calls unwelcome advances, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature "sexual harassment".

This could include acts like unwelcome touches, standing close or brushing up against a person, staring and wolf whistles.

Unfortunately, this kind of behaviour seems rife.

Men and women The New Paper on Sunday spoke to invariably described instances where things just become "too much".

And it happens everywhere: At work, at play, even in school.

In a 2008 study, local women's group Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) said that over half of the 500 people they surveyed over a 16-month time frame said that they were sexually harassed in the workplace.

Of these, one in five was a man.

Many of them also said they had been sexually harassed several times, suggesting that they tend not to be one-off, isolated events.

Ms Diana Tay, 28, was matter-of-fact when asked if these things happen: "Of course it happens. Especially in my line, where I sometimes have to entertain clients.

The relationship manager at a bank added: "Sometimes guys will put their arm around me at clubs, or sit really close to me. I've also experienced men putting their hands on my lap, which made me feel uncomfortable."

In school, harassment most commonly takes the form of unkind comments, gestures or jokes. The people we polled also say that what starts off as friendly banter in a bar can quickly escalate into unwelcome attention.

Public servant Hazel Ang, 23, says that eye contact on the dance floor may sometimes be construed as an open invitation for men to advance. The alcohol, close proximity and dark surroundings do not help.

Account manager for sales and marketing Danielle Ong, 23, adds: "I've had guys try to put their hand up my skirt on the dance floor.

"I've observed the same thing happening to other girls, who turn around too late to react - it's so crowded you wouldn't know who it is."

The question that stumped the people we spoke to was a simple one. What is "too much"?

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