Book on Sexual Harassment Distributed at Egyptian Mosques

July 4, 2009

In an effort to raise awareness about the widespread problem of sexual harassment (including in public places – street harassment) in Egypt, Egypt’s Ministry of Endowments has published a book on the topic that will be distributed at local mosques around the country, targeted at Imams. Menassat.com reports:

The book, titled ‘Sexual Harassment: Causes and Solutions,’ is co-written by Minister of Endowments Hamdi Zaqzouq and Salem Abdel Geleil, deputy minister of religious endowments….The book is to be distributed in mosques nationwide starting this week and reportedly discusses the definition of sexual harassment, motives behind it, and the occurrence of it in Egyptian society. But it apparently also brings up how some girls might be ‘asking for harassment’ by wearing revealing clothes or by their behavior, according to Daily News Egypt.”

Let’s hope the last sentence  isn’t true…

I hope the books will help, but I also wonder if there will be anyone holding the Imams accountable for reading the book and paying attention to what it says and helping to end the problem in their communities?

Back in February I reported that members of Egypt’s parliament were expected to propose a law strengthening the penalties against sexual offenders (including street harassers) by increasing jail time and fines and put more pressure on police to stop incidents and take the concerns of the targets of such harassment more seriously. Menassat.com reports that women’s rights groups are still “lobbying before the Egyptian government to introduce a legislation that makes sexual harassment punishable under the law.” I hope they succeed!


Toronto Event Tommorrow for Young Women!

May 29, 2009

If you’re in Toronto and care about addressing street harassment & other violence against young women, check this out, via Shameless Magazine’s Blog:

Making Noise Media Camp for Young Women
For young women ages 14-25
Saturday May 30
rsvp: michelle cho, 416-703-6607 x 3
michelle@urbanalliance.ca

“Summer is almost here, and rates of violence always go up in the summer…we’re tired of being hollered at the in the streets and feeling unsafe, but want more creative ways of challenging gender violence.”

“We’ve organized a media camp FOR THIS SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2009, to start to bring young women together to plan a summer campaign to challenge street harassment in Toronto using media they’ve created themselves. We want to talk about how violence is experienced differently by women of colour and how it is made invisible by the media or sensationalized to be solely about being because they do not fit into the “mainstream”.”

Sounds great!


New Mauritius Street Harassment Blog

April 28, 2009
Mauritius, image from worldtravels.com

Mauritius, image from worldtravels.com

Oh, street harassment, truly you are a global problem. Additional proof: the Stop Violence Against Women group of Amnesty International Mauritius Section recently has launched an anti-street harassment blog as part of its anti-street harassment campaign in Mauritius.

Where is Mauritius, you may ask? It’s an island located in the Indian Ocean near the island of Madagasca and South Africa. It is 11 times the size of Washington, DC. And wouldn’t you know it? Apparently street harassment is a big problem there.

From their blog: “From inappropriate touching to invasive comments to stalking, street harassment is something that far too many Mauritians have to face on a daily basis. Causing fear, guilt, and frustration, these behaviors define women and girls as non-citizens, disrupting their access to freedom, independence and human rights.”

“Posting a story here will help other targets realize they aren’t alone and have nothing to be ashamed of. It will show harassers that we don’t accept their inappropriate and degrading behavior.”

“The members of the SVAW group thank you for participating in this blog. Whether it’s by reading, contributing or commenting, you are helping to make the streets of Mauritius a safer place.”

So spread the word about this new blog and learn more about street harassment in Mauritius by reading contributor’s stories there.


V Day

February 14, 2009

Today is V-Day and people around the U.S. and world are taking action to end men’s violence against women. Access anti-violence resources, find an event in your community, and/or donate to help support the movement.

Today I volunteered with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. I do so a few times each month as an Online Hotline volunteer, and today I did so as my V-Day activism. Are you participating in a V-Day event or related activism? If so, what?

To end, here’s a turning-the-tables on street harassment story from my informal survey:

“A SUV full of high school boys were yelling at me and whistling while I was walking my dog. They continued down the street and got stuck at a stop sign behind a bus. I had time to walk down to where they were, get right up to their window and made them wish they weren’t there. When the tables were turned, they had no power.”

Hopefully they’ll think twice before harassing someone in the future!


Horrors of Street Harassment: A Letter (Part 1)

February 11, 2009

[Editors Note: A Stop Street Harassment website visitor e-mailed me a letter that details very well how pervasive and how restricting street harassment can be for women. With her permission, I am posting it here in two parts, this is part 1. I thank her for her bravery in speaking out about her experiences.]

I have not left my apartment alone in 6 months, except once per week to go to the grocery store (in the car), and even that is a nightmare I dread.

Every time I leave the house I feel intimidated by street harassers, cat callers or otherwise rude, aggressive men. No, I’m not a supermodel, nor a sea cow. No I don’t dress provocatively (most of the time I don’t even get out of my PJ’s) or instigate trouble. I mostly try to look at the ground when I walk now. It’s every single time I leave the house, and it’s not my imagination. It’s not an age thing, a race thing or a lifestyle thing-It’s a gender/aggression thing.

Even going to the grocery store once a week is a nightmare; the last 2 trips I was cornered by crazy, sick old men that could have been my grampa, or at least my dad. One of the guys stopped at the end of an aisle and stared at me for over a whole minute-When I stared back he said ‘sorry’ and scurried away. Another one was a really old man when I was at the check out; He stood so close to me I could feel his breath on my neck, so I changed check out booths after trying to take steps back several times, and him just stepping closer very time. He FOLLOWED ME!!! But this time he was blocking me in, so I couldn’t get away!

The last time I went out without my BF and not to the grocery store was to walk to the bank 1/2 mile away and back. Outside the bank is a fruit cart with a guy selling fruit. I saw him staring at the end of the block, and he leered the whole time, whistled when I passed the cart, and leered again until I got into the bank doors. Same thing happened on the way back. As soon as I turned the corner, 3 men parked in a car on the side street began making kissy noises and yelling toward me…The three of them followed me all the way to the other corner where I live, making squishy mouth noises the whole way. I don’t go to the bank on foot anymore.

Aside from yells and weird encounters (this is only the last couple times I’ve left the house), I can’t walk down the road without beeps from passing cars, or men yelling obscene comments or leering out their windows at red lights. It doesn’t just happen in the summer when I wear t-shirts and shants. It happens in the winter, too, wearing long pants, sweaters and coats.

At my last apartment, the balcony was over an alleyway shared with a major road where a building was undergoing construction. Every time I went to water the plants outside, the construction workers would yell obscene things to me. I had stopped going even on my own goddamn porch to avoid abuse!!

Yes, I used to do container gardening and would like to again, but Home Depot is another nightmare/obstacle so I decided not to garden this year. There’s always workers standing at the entrances of the parking lot, which is cool, but I’m not building a deck; I’m buying snapdragons for my porch and don’t need any assistance. As soon as the men see inside the dirty windows of my jetta and find a woman, the yelling and hissing starts.

Often they’ve become very aggressive, and banged on the car windows while making foul gestures with their mouths, etc… Exiting the home depot is scary, too. My last shopping trip there, one man followed me all the way from the exit door to my car (which was far into the lot) making squishy noises from his mouth and yelling things at me. I tried to walk really quickly, but he got to my car and blocked me from my car door-I nearly ran him over when I finally got him to get away from me.

At my last job (I was laid off last summer), there were lots of uncomfortable moments, too. I had to water the plants outside before the showroom opened, and the cat calls and leers from cars never ended (I would be wearing pant suits w/ flats). It didn’t matter…Old men in BMWs, young men in sports cars, packs of workers in beat up trucks, dads in Volvos w/ little kids in the back, hippy surfers in vintage/rusty cars… it didn’t matter!!!

This has been happening to me since I was 13 years old. I’m 24 now, and cannot ever adjust-It just makes me feel lower and lower each time I go out. Now I just don’t go out. It happens from ALL men…I’ve even been cat called by police officers in squad cars 4 times!!!(Not just Los Angeles – Boston and New York, too). I was pursued by a Fireman on duty once at my old job.

I remember once I was 16 years old, taking the train home from a museum with a group of other girls (From Boston to Salem) and 2 men followed us onto a train. It started on the platform, where they were catcalling to us. One of them even touched my hair once we were on the train, and we complained to the conductor, who called the police (they also didn’t have valid train tickets). The Salem PD waited for us at the station where they were arrested-They drove us home. Funny that 2 years later I’d be catcalled by Salem PD officers in uniform (‘Nice Legs’ from a squad car at a red traffic light, on a 98 degree 98% humid day).

Don’t even get me started on the New York transit system! That’s just as bad as walking alone on an LA city street!

I remember being 13 years old spending summers on New Hampshire and Cape Cod beaches with my Nana, and getting cat calls and honks from cars and being ‘hit on’ by men 4x my age. At age 13.

….

(Part 2 will be posted tomorrow)