Street harassment of women on the rise
Women in Jeddah are becoming increasingly concerned about the rising trend of harassment and have urged the traffic police to be more vigilant in dispensing their duties considering that the reckless young men often chase taxis and cars with women passengers at high speeds posing a risk to fellow motorists and pedestrians.
Taxi drivers and women passengers regularly complain about this nuisance.
“I was taking a taxi to my workplace when suddenly a young man driving a Jeep began ramming the car from behind and ordered the taxi driver to pull over. I advised the taxi driver to change his route but it did not help and the man continued to follow and harass us,” said Farah Zaman.
She added that he finally swerved in front of the taxi blocking their path. “He began shouting at us to scare us and said that he would call the police, but before he could do so, I dialed 999 and called them myself. The police officer was very cooperative and asked me to look around to see if there was a police officer available,” said Zaman.
She explained that she was lucky to find a police officer after 10 minutes. The police officer told the young man to leave or risk arrest, she said.
Another victim, Sameera Zahrani, said that these unruly young men not only harass women on the streets, follow taxis and cars and terrify expatriate drivers but they also harass women pedestrians. Motorist Faroq Ali said: “These youth drive recklessly creating havoc on the roads which could result in terrible accidents or even death. However, as an expatriate, I am afraid to interfere.”
Tariq Abbasi, a visitor from the UK, told Arab News that he was shocked at seeing the way the youth chase women. He said: “We don’t expect this to happen in an Islamic country hosting the two holy cities. In fact, we haven’t seen such things happening on the streets of London.”
Vice president of the Social Science Forum organization and a social scientist, I. Hasan, said that the solution to the problem is to have the traffic police exercise more vigilance on Jeddah’s streets. “They should also be authorized to arrest anyone doing this obnoxious activity and there should be strict laws.”
He added that the “wasta system” should be eliminated as the guilty party takes advantage of its contacts with high officials to obtain a release without punishment.
He said that the guilty youth should stand trial and have the sentence read out to them in the presence of their parents, who should also be warned to reign in their sons or risk facing punishment themselves.
“Just as the traffic department is introducing a points system for reckless drivers, there should be one for youth who harass women where they stand to lose their driving license if they continue with the behavior,” he said. “Introducing stricter laws will certainly be a deterrent and the behavior will disappear with time,” he concluded.
Female harassment also takes place in malls which has resulted in some malls barring entry of young men at weekends.