Thursday, June 3

Veiling doesnt seem to stop harassment

One of the most frequent reasons given by Muslim women who are veiled or want to veil is that it allows them to affirm their faith, follow the strictures of Islam and basically stop themselves being looked as objects of lust. Dress modestly so to say, dont allow your hair to be seen and and and. So when I read this, I was a bit bewildered. I quote:

The Egyptian media reported that about 300 cases of sexual harassment against women occurred over the recent Adha holiday. The cases, which the Interior Ministry would not confirm or deny, varied from verbal taunts to assaults. Al Destour newspaper said the number of incidents was higher than what was reported during the Fitr feast in September.

Sexual harassment in Egyptian cities has become an disturbing phenomenon of late. It recently became associated with feast holidays, where thousands enjoy spending their free time outdoors. Younger generations face less-strict scrutiny from their parents, who tend to allow their daughters to go out without parental supervision during feasts. Police security is usually softer than it is throughout the rest of the year.

The biggest incident came during last year's Fitr, when 150 men and boys were arrested for going on a harassing spree in the streets of Mohandeseen in Cairo. A few of the defendants, who assaulted girls and cut their clothes, were taken to court and one was sentenced to a year in jail.

The number of harassment cases during the feasts echoes a study carried out by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR) last July, showing that 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign females residing in the country reported being harassed.

Egypt's penal code sets imprisonment punishments for anyone who sexually assaults minors, but many assaulted women have seen their cases blocked as judges and prosecutors blamed similar incidents on the "provocative" way some girls are dressed. But the ECWR's study refutes such allegations, saying that 71.5% of women who reported sexual harassment were wearing veils (head scarves) and non-revealing clothes, and 19.6% of them were even wearing niqabs (face veils).

I am not really sure that veiling is really helping out here. And as usual, the problem is with the men. Without veils, you are accused of dressing provocatively and acting whorishly. Seriously, so many debates that i have followed in mailing lists or newspapers or elsewhere, the women who are veiled (and the men who support them) talk about bikini clad women, scantily clad women and how that doesnt give rise to dignity of the women. But seems like if you veil, you are in bigger danger of being groped and harassed. When I spoke to somebody who was Egyptian, their response was that the men think that veiled women are easy, they would not complain, they will simply take the harassment and walk on. Once a woman finds that her body is shameful and has to be hidden away, well, there you go, if you cover the meat, you will get handled, if you uncover the meat, you will be called as uncovered meat.

The problem is not going to be resolved by wearing burqa’s or the veil, the problem is that men are defining what women are and aren't. Look at what happened in New York. I quote:

Scantily clad hipster cyclists attracted to the Brooklyn neighborhood made it difficult, the Hasids said, to obey religious laws forbidding them from staring at members of the opposite sex in various states of undress. These riders also were disobeying the traffic laws, they complained

See? the men are the weak lot, they cannot control their lust and emotions. While I am fully in favour of what you wear and what not to wear, these internal contradictions need to be thought through a bit more. Given that Europe is moving towards banning the veil, does this mean that women’s harassment in Europe will be lessened?

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