Saudi women demand strict anti-harassment laws

Anti-harassment laws

Saudi women are demanding harsher and more official regulations against sexual harassment as they enter into new work domains.

Families, social institutions and mosques are being urged to join forces in the campaign against harassment.

Women who frequent malls and shopping centers face all types of woes, especially ladies whose jobs involve direct interaction with men.

While some simply ignore, most concur that their lives would be a whole lot better if it stopped.

Ahlam, who works at a mall, says she suffers from this problem every once in a while.

While she doesn’t hide her resentment over being objectified, Ahlam says she has no choice but to turn a blind eye to the menace.

“I pity their lack of education and decorum,” she told Arab News.

Legal consultant Abdulaziz Dashnan said that anyone who has been arrested and convicted on harassment charges is treated as a criminal in the eyes of the law.

“The social affairs committee has finalized an initial proposal for fining harassers SR500,000 and putting them away for up to five years,” he said.

Some say that women’s continued silence over harassment is only encouraging men to up their game.

“They know that women won’t report the harassment and so they don’t stop,” Mayyas, another employee, told Arab News.

“Women find themselves in a lose-lose situation. If they tell their parents, they’d force them to quit, while employers often urge them to keep quiet for the sake of making profits.”

Several, nevertheless, have told Arab News that the support of the Shoura Council in criminalyzing harassment can help put an end to their suffering.

Um Abdullah, a receptionist at a medical clinic, agrees that the problem must be resolved through legal means.

“We are subject to childish gestures and have no specialized entity to turn to for our rights,” she told Arab News.

“Company owners sometimes even blame us for the abhorrent behavior of others.”

Some men, however, have different views on this issue.

Husam Al-Khaled, a worker in the private sector, blames women’s lack of respect for tradition for attracting what he termed as wrong types of attention.

“A lot of women fail to respect local rules and traditions in the way that they dress and carry themselves in a manner,” he said.

Some women even agree with this view.

Tahani Al-Youssef said that while women with interactive jobs may be most subject to harassment, what female staff wear and the level of their make-up may have a direct link to possible harassment.

“Some women think that laughing, putting on heavy make-up and making small talk will help them advance at workplaces,” he said.

Khaled Jelban, a professor of family and community medicine at King Khaled University, told Arab News that families and social institutions should join forces in stopping this phenomenon.

“Families, mosques and social media websites need to openly condemn harassment,” he said.

 
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