By Nidal Chebbak
Fez – As a follow up to an article I wrote this week about this issue and to answer all the comments I received about it, I decided to write another article to clarify a few things from a Moroccan female’s perspective and experience with this particular issue.
To be clear from the very beginning, I don’t want to fall into generalizations. In every country, there is the good and there is the bad. The same applies to Morocco. There are the well-mannered men who highly respect women and their rights in society and never harass them in any way, and there is the other type of men who don’t see anything wrong with harassment. For this kind of men, since women are “invading” the public sphere, they should automatically be prepared their harassment.
There are people who claim that women hold a responsibility as well for the continuity of such a horrible practice that limits their rights and duties within society. They see that the woman does not speak up, doesn’t yell back when she’s harassed, and that she appears to remain quiet and ashamed about it.
Let me tell you this, this is simply NOT true. The very first time any Moroccan girl was harassed in the streets (though no one can say and determine when the first harassment they experienced occurred because it’s so common, she most probably spoke out, shouted, screamed and thought that by doing so she was teaching that man a lesson that he or any other man wouldn’t dare harass her in any way again.
Later, she would discover that it didn’t work. That man might have followed her several times and/or continued harassing her or verbally abusing her in more vulgar language because she spoke up against him. In such a case, no one on the street would interfere. He could even have become violent and, most of the time, no single person would even blink an eye for his behavior or help her in any way.
Over the years, the girl grows tired of speaking up and shouting in streets and she sees no difference as a result. How many times does she need to speak out against this injustice? If she goes and tries to file a lawsuit, against whom shall she do that? Against all men who harass her in one way or another? Would even the police take her seriously? Who is going to bear witness to the harassment and testify that it really took place? The ugly truth is that no one at the police station would take her seriously as long as she is physically unharmed.
Most of the time if not always, men are excused for the harassment by society and its laws just because they are “men”. There are even some men who claim that they don’t harass, they aren’t doing any harm, and that they just are boosting women’s confidence about their beauty and the way they look.
When foreign women come to Morocco, they think and assume that they are the only women being harassed in the country. I have many foreign friends who came to Morocco. The common thing that they say about this issue is how many marriage proposals they have received from the cab driver to the door man. I usually just smile and we joke about it, because I also assumed that somehow they would know it’s actually a common problem, about which I was wrong. Then I think next time, I should let the discussion flow more about this topic.
As a teenager and when the harassments started, I used to speak out. I even remember the man or boy who verbally harassed me then getting a man from my family to deal with him, because speaking out on my own was useless and it had only worsened the problem since no one in street would stand up for me. When a man from my family would interfere, it would magically work.
As the years went by, I stopped responding to the harassment because it’s always misunderstood, as if when you respond or even shout back that you are only “begging” for more harassment!! I believe that’s the way with most women. We just pretend that the verbal and visual harassments don’t exist unless we are literally stopped or touched.
No woman should feel ashamed to speak up about this social plague and condemn these behaviors. I personally don’t see that it is women’s fault. At the same time, they shouldn’t act like victims and let this problem affect their lives, though it does to some extent.
Those men have mothers, sisters, daughters and granddaughters. Yet, unfortunately a man at the age of a grandfather can and do harass a girl who might be the same age as his grandchildren which he considers “normal”.
I’m sure that any of these men would feel outraged to see or hear that his mother or sister is being harassed in the street. Well, here is a thought that they should keep in mind: you harass a girl, someone else is for sure harassing your mother or sister (or any other precious female in your family) in the street and they don’t tell you about it. This type of men usually think that the girls related to him by blood are diamonds and no one should dare harass them, while the daughters of other people should deal with his sick mentality.
If we need a stated law and punishment to correct what is wrong, then we are a country in real decay and we are living in a real jungle. If only every man can start with himself and see his sister in every girl he meets, and not harass her and defend her when she’s being harassed, then our sense of what is wrong and what is right will be passed on to the next generations. We would be solving a problem that affects many women on a daily basis.
I believe the question boils down to education and the way in which our school system and our media deal with this issue. It also boils down the loss of our Muslim identity, since most people no longer know who they are, what their religious creed is about and what should they do and what they should avoid.
If only our school system could instill on the young generation the very precepts of Islam, our situation for women in our country would be better-off. Does not our religion urge Muslims to abstain from any obscene behavior that can affect others and society as a whole? Unfortunately, most people take from religion only what suits their patriarchal mindset and turn a blind eye to other teachings.
It is high time our society embarked on a serious debate on a way to deal with issue and put an end to the daily irritations put up with by women. It is also time that our media played their role in educating people about the threat that this behavior poses on our society. Only through this process will we be able to diminish the disastrous effects that this plague is having on the daily life of Moroccan women.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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