Rabat – Street harassment is a worldwide phenomenon that many women experience daily although the number of victims differs from country to another. A video recently went viral on social media sharing the experience of a girl facing street harassment while walking the streets of New York. The same idea was applied in a video filming a Moroccan girl walking in Casablanca, showing the world the terrifying daily routine for many of us who remain silent:
Street harassment as a sign of gender inequality in Morocco
In the Foreign Policy magazine article “Why do they hate us?” by Mona Eltahawy, she states, “Yet it’s the men who can’t control themselves on the streets, where from Morocco to Yemen, sexual harassment is endemic and it’s for the men’s sake that so many women are encouraged to cover up….”
I agree with Mona on this point. Harassment is a fact that girls and women such as myself feel and experience daily. When a girl or woman calls for a social change related to the phenomenon of street harassment based on a personal experience, they call her guilty and not a victim.
When she reacts angry toward an assault or unsolicited comment about her body on our Moroccan streets, the first point they raise questioning how she is dressed. To understand aspects of the gender inequality that encourages street harassment as a social dilemma within Moroccan society, it is important to use both cultural and religious approaches which create the levels of differences between both men and women.
Religion pervades every aspect of our society and frames the type of legislation enacted and relations between power and people based on the religious symbolism of the law giver and the follower.
In Morocco, it can’t be denied that in most social rules power represents men, while women are usually expected to be followers. Although many Arab Muslims do not encourage radical Islamic movements, it is still representative of a large body of individuals who believe in oppressing women who bring “shame” to the honor of their families.
The case of honor is never placed back upon the responsibility of men and represents a radical application of religion that only serves men. The reasoning behind this is that men will always support aspects of religion that allows them to be dominant and hold power using religious arguments and depict women as responsible and never victims.
Medi1 TV’s “Generation News” broadcast an episode on sexual harassment, which illustrates the common male common argument about how women are responsible for facing sexual harassment:
Some individuals tend to explain social rules in a doctrinal, traditional manner that has changed little in more than a thousand years. These individuals use tradition as a disguise in order to take advantage of some of the gaps in the law, such as the exploitation of the Family Code on the jurisprudence of the Maliki school, which allows the husband to rape his wife, although it is indeed illegal in criminal law.
We also should not overlook the responsibility of the community in consecrating and justifying gender inequality. With the proviso that all of the below cannot be applied to all families in Morocco, some examples from our society include:
1) Daughters are raised to handle domestic work and not their brothers
2) The son in the family is allowed to participate in actions that are prohibited for the daughter, such as dates and coming and going from the house unaccompanied
3) The practice and encouragement of social violence such as harassment in many situations as a way for the male to prove his manhood in society
Anthropological evidence surrounding the disparate treatment of men and women differs between cultural contexts. One common thread is the organization of social differences placing women in most developing countries in an inferior position to men. However, we should never forget the efforts made by Morocco to achieve parity between men and women, but we always need more efforts and awareness to give voice to our voiceless 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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