Today I was talking to my friend Mi7sen about social issues in Kuwait. We talked about animal abuse, domestic abuse, media censorship, but mostly focused on sexual harassment. Right now, I am trying to decide what issue I should dedicate my time and effort to for the next year or so. We came to the conclusion that abolishing media censorship would be too difficult and too lengthy to achieve; likewise, putting an end to animal abuse and domestic abuse. Although I adore animals and have my own pets at home, and it breaks my heart to see puppies being mistreated at the Friday Market, it seems that issue will have to be temporarily put on hold – at least on my own personal agenda. And the same goes for domestic abuse; I’m all for women and children’s rights, and I don’t think anyone has the right to lay a hand on either of them. But the sad truth is, it’s very common here and most of the women feel too helpless to stand up for their rights.
Sexual harassment, on the other hand, has gotten so huge that it has become accepted as a part of our culture! It has become NORMAL for Kuwaiti guys to say “let’s hang out” when that is actually a secret code for “let’s go stalk girls”. Our society has taught boys and girls alike that if a girl is disrespected by a boy, she has brought it on herself. It’s like teaching girls “don’t get raped” rather than teaching boys to control themselves, because we are not animals that act based on our desires. But recently it seems that is the case. I don’t know a single girl that can honestly tells me she never worries about guys hitting on her when she goes to the mall, even if she’s dressed in the most simplistic outfit, jeans and a tshirt and still has bed-hair. We have to stop saying this is normal. It’s not normal for a girl not to feel safe in her own country because she fears that she might be stalked, publicly harassed, or disrespected.
Let’s define sexual harassment, shall we?
When you feel your womanhood is being demeaned sexually because of someone’s words or actions, you are being harassed. By the way, that could even include a dirty look – when a guy checks you out from head to toe in a way that is disgustingly ‘appreciative’, you feel like less of a woman, less of a person. When a guy publicly nudges his friends and loudly tells them to check you out, you are being harassed. When they stalk you, when they publicly hit on you in a way that humiliates you in front of everyone present, when you have to think twice before going to the mall on a Thursday night, then you are not living in a normal situation. It is ANYTHING but normal. We should be able to feel safe and secure in our own country. We should not feel the need to underdress just for the sake of ‘protecting’ ourselves from perverts. Leering, throwing rude comments, unwanted touches, lascivious stares,
In the UAE, if a guy sexually harasses a girl in any way, his photo is published in local newspapers. Naturally, the man is humiliated and A) never repeats his mistake. B) is used as an example to make sure no one else thinks of doing the same thing. But, if we were to apply that here, we would easily have 200 pictures a day. However, if this “Sensitivity Camp” were to be applied, I think we’d get real results.
Also, wise words of Mr. AbdulMohsen that I will make sure to remember: خالف، تعرف
because great minds have always encountered great opposition. 😉