Street harassment is defined as a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, wolf-whistles, "catcalling", and other actions by strangers in public areas. To many women - I am using women as an example because lets face it, we are the most common victims of this type of harassment - this is unknown; it is not always made public that even things like cat-calling, un-comforting comments and whistles are considered sexual harassment that can be dealt with legally and seriously.
|Image source: http://everydayfeminism.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/street-harassment1.jpg; originally from artswallpapers.com|
Previously, I did not wish to share my experience with street harassment in my country Oman as an Omani woman, however this time I am willing to share that discomfort, with the hopes of reaching out to many women who fall as victims in such situations, inspiring them to speak up for their rights. Also to contribute as much as I can to limiting and hopefully stopping the issue of street harassment in Oman.
The story which urged me to write once more about street harassment began when my sister and I made the decision to take a power walk here in the Omani capital, Muscat. I feel like it is important to inform you that my sister and I were wearing the Abaya with full Hijab, therefore for the many out there who would argue that a woman must dress suitably in order to avoid street harassment, my dress was deemed suitable for the Omani society (which is something that I will get back to later in this article). So out with our Abayas we go, although they are extremely uncomfortable to power walk with especially in the heat of Muscat. I was surprised by the responses we have received from many of the men driving on the way we walked, many would shout 'let me pick you up', 'do you need a ride' (which very visibly had extremely bad motives or intentions) and most importantly, press on their honks as they passed us. Some even followed us by their cars, which I can assure you is one of the most uncomfortable feelings I have ever came across in my entire life!
The experience once again left me speechless, and I was astonished by how I feel much more freedom and safety going out in a country that's foreign to me when compared to going out on the streets of my very own mother land. I detested the fear I had, which I never should have in the first place. I prayed that things would get better in the future, so that my future daughter never goes through my experience of fear in her own country.
Many would argue that a woman's dress attracts such comments and behavior from men, but I personally believe that a woman must never be held responsible for a man's poor choice of behavior. If any of my readers have to go through such experience, my advice is to speak up about it, respond because it is your right to do so, report the behavior (if it is a harassment at work or in a public area).
I have based this blog post on street harassment in Oman, however if you are a victim of street harassment in other parts of the world, do not hesitate to speak up as it is considered a crime, and is a form of sexual harassment. There are several Anti-harassment groups around the world; you can view the list here.