Efforts to break the silence and taboo surrounding sexual harassment will eventually lead to a harassment-free Egypt.
Tuesday 21 June 2011
To my mind, sexual harassment is a very humiliating experience which causes long-lasting psychological trauma.
I’m from Egypt, a country where statistics indicate a threatening trend in which more than 80% of Egyptian are harassed. I attribute this phenomenon to negative attitudes and weird mentalities. Some people have an intrinsic cultural attitude that whoever dresses in a ‘provocative’ way deserves the consequences! This results in a warped duality in which the victim becomes the predator and the predator the victim.
A woman should wear whatever she likes and feel secure in her choice. Unlike some other experiences, harassment is not easy to forget or get over, and it is really sad how even the closest people to a woman who has fallen prey to harassment can behave at times.
It is very painful when a woman has this huge psychological pain and she cannot talk about it honestly and openly with her husband to release this negative energy. Instead of being held and reassured, a woman can find herself at the receiving end of her husband’s anger or distance.
Another common negative reaction among family and friend is to act as though nothing has happend. And this SILENCE is the worst possible reaction.
Being able to talk about the problem in private and in public is very important for people to understand more about the causes and consequences of harassment so as to be able to deal with it like any other problem, instead of sweeping it under the carpet as a taboo. Transforming the whole issue into a taboo blows it out of all proportions and complicates matters more.
With the revalation that sexual harassment was on the rise and had reached crisis proportion, the entire community received the unprecedented opportunity to bring the issue out of the closet for the first time. So far, this has not led to new laws, but it is leading to new attitudes.
Last December saw the releas of a film, ‘678’, which dealt directly with the roots of the problem and the negative attitudes of Egyptians towards sexual harassment. The film touchingly and convincingly featured three women living in very different circumstances and explored how harassment had almost ruined their lives.
In a country like Egypt, this is the best way to address a problem like harassment and, with time, this will lead to real change. Although the movie didn’t offer any solutions, it attempted to reshape people’s consciousness by viewing the pain and humiliation of harassment from the victims’ perspective. It also presented role models who said ‘no’ to harassment.
The Egyptian revolution arrived to empower almost all Egyptians and restore their dignity which will have an impact on everyone and every aspect of life. It is worth noting that during the Egyptian revolution, no single incident was reported, and the reaction of both men and women to harassment now is completely different.
I’m very happy and proud that many Egyptian women now react positively when being harassed which puts the predators at greater risk and lead thems to think twice before starting their assault. I’m also confident that society will grow more supportive and open minded.
This article is part of a special series on sexual harassment. Published here with the author’s consent. © Rasha Dewedar. All rights reserved