Laila Al Amri

Laila Al Amri

Journalist

Saudi woman attacks a harasser in her own way

A young Saudi woman revealed her strength when a harasser assaulted her in a restaurant in Jeddah. She kicked him as if she were a karate player.

A video recording of the kick went viral on Saudi social networks, along with the women’s strong verbal warning to the harasser to stay away from her. She then hit the offender with her bag while continuing to kick and punch him. This response from the young woman shocked the harasser who undoubtedly did not expect the strong physical and verbal reaction. He retreated, while some restaurant customers intervened to capture and retain him until police arrived.

Twitter users’ reactions varied: Some praised the woman’s courage, and indicated this was the best response to being harassed, but others condemned her reaction, stressing that what she did violates a woman’s modesty.

Harassment is one of the most serious social problem prevalent in many societies. Saudi society has not been successful at eliminating this abhorrent behavior. Sadly, open, public harassment of women has been normalized for decades. Only recently has society in generally been inflamed and angered about the harassment of women and the acceptance of this behavior.

According to the Saudi Human Rights Association, harassment cases have recently increased. In 2016, more than 4,000 harassment cases were reported. However, many Saudis fail to acknowledge harassment among family members.  According to a report issued by the Ministry of Justice, Saudi courts examined 2,797 harassment cases in 2016, most of them in Riyadh.

Many cases of harassment that were recorded by cameras, revealed Saudi women showing strong and dissuasive reactions against harassers, refusing to engage with or acknowledge him. However, this is not always the case. For example, a woman broke the mobile phone of a harasser when he handed it to her to enter her number. She grabbed the phone and forcefully threw it on the floor at one of the malls.  

In another mall, a girl attacked a harasser who was stalking and harassing her. She struck him with a broomstick while passersby interfered to rescue him.
In January 2018, Saudi authorities actually arrested a harasser.  The Saudi Attorney-General instructed security forces to arrest him for verbally assaulting a woman in a public place in Medina.

In September 2017, King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued a decree to the Minister of Interior to prepare a draft law to combat harassment, the King indicating his eagerness to sign such a law. . This draft is expected to be finished soon. This is considered an appropriate start to protect women against harassment while driving or while in other public places.

Prior to this decree, many Saudis demanded a law to combat harassment, but the deliberations about the law at the Shura Council lasted for long periods without reaching an agreement.

It is worth mentioning that combating harassment was previously the mission of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice—the body responsible for monitoring  behavior in public places to ensure behavior is ethical and conforms to Sharia. Currently combating harassment became the responsibility of the General Prosecutor while relevant governmental authorities work prepare a law to combat harassment and clearly impose penalties for the shameful behavior.

 

 

 

 

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