Street harassment resistance in Afghanistan

May 5, 2011

Via ProQuest K-12

In chapter 4 of my book, I look at how street harassment can vary by country and region depending on factors like, laws, culture, and peace vs wartime.

I briefly mention Afghanistan and how street harassment is exacerbated by the fact that across most of the country, women are not supposed to be in public unaccompanied by men and or unveiled. I also cite a few instances of men throwing acid at girls going to school; a horrific and unique form of street harassment that occurs in a few countries.

There is a lot more going on in Afghanistan when it comes to street harassment, though, and an article at Global Room for Women elaborates on the topic.

I’m on a quest to find information about how women resist and respond to street harassment, so I was particularly interested in this excerpt from the article:

“While studying this social issue, one has to gather information on how women struggle against street-harassment because women are not merely victims. Despite the fact that no formal, strategized and orderly action is taken by the government, namely the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the media or women’s organizations to recognize the phenomena as a social issue that needs to be addressed seriously, individual women have developed their own methods to fight street-harassment.

To deny the satisfaction of accomplishment to the violators, many women have a silent attitude towards the harassment they face. The silent treatment is a common way chosen by women to protect themselves and discourage the person who verbally abuses them.

Another way of dealing with this problem has been initiation of the harassment by the women when they say something condescending to men just to prevent their harassment and to prove that they are not afraid of their presence. Some women have word fights, or mini-fist fights that usually end at the interference of an outsider.

The different methods that women find to deal with the issue must be addressed and the advantages and disadvantages of each must be weighed to reach a conclusion on which is most successful in ensuring the safety and continuous participation of women in their societies.”

[If you want to read an inspiring book about Afghan women’s resistance generally, I recommend Veiled Courage by Cheryl Benard]

The opening words echo true for most of us — our governments, media, and NGOs don’t do enough (and sometimes don’t do anything) to make public places safe and welcoming for us, so we are left to our own devices for figuring out how to be safe and empowered.

Many women have discovered assertive responses that work, and a growing number of people are taking collective grassroots action to end street harassment.

There are plenty of tactics we can test to figure out what makes us feel empowered, safe, and full of resistance!

My primary resistance tactic is writing about street harassment.

What is yours?