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Civil society organisations work to end harassment

By Suzanna Goussous - Dec 03,2015 - Last updated at Dec 03,2015

AMMAN — More than 20 organisations have begun work on a plan to limit acts of sexual harassment in areas across the Kingdom during the 16-Day Campaign of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence that started on November 25, Arab Network for Civic Education 

(ANHRE) Executive Director Fotouh Younis said Thursday. 

ANHRE's local initiative, titled “Youth for Eliminating Harassment”, launched a
USAID-funded campaign in November that aims to raise awareness of all types of harassment in Jordan, the organisers said.

“According to the studies we conducted, young people see this phenomenon increasing without any known reasons,” Younis said, “which is why we equipped teams in all governorates to tour schools and universities to inform students about the importance of fighting harassment."

She told The Jordan Times that the organisation is highlighting the social aspect of the issue, not the legal side. 

“The silence of the victim is not the solution to the problem — the problem itself has to fade. If harassment happens, the woman has to fight back and not stay silent.” 

“If women are silent towards verbal harassment, it means they are on their way to remaining mute about all other incidents, even more serious ones,”  Younis noted.

“The 16-day campaign is not long enough to address all the challenges women face. However, there are several issues being discussed during the 16 days that are of huge significance.”

Professor Rula Quawas, who teaches feminism and American literature at the University of Jordan, said the future is “gloomy” regarding harassment in Jordan.

“The phenomenon is escalating because there is no enactment of a law [against it]. Women are paying the price for it and they are in so much pain, yet they cannot share it with anyone,” Quawas told The Jordan Times. 

“In societies like ours, there is a hierarchy, a sense of entitlement… objectifying, catcalling, fragmenting a woman’s body when she walks down the street… she becomes a body part only,” she said.

“She becomes eye candy,” the professor added, “He [the harasser] feasts his eyes on her… Just like in commodification; he’s the consumer and she’s the product.”

Quawas said women in Jordan remain reluctant to this day to admit they have been victims of any type of harassment.

“The sad part is that women face internalised misogyny and no one is courageous enough to admit it.”

The professor added that many women and girls fear telling those around them about an incident of harassment, since it would be considered as a “disgrace” and they would be “slandered”.

“Silence is a disease in a patriarchy — [we must] break the silence [and the] culture of fear,” she said.

Quawas refused to “categorise” harassment, explaining that “harassment is harassment — if we sort its types, we devalue the crime committed.”

The academic called on Jordanians to “speak back to the harassment, push back to change the mindset of the people".

 

"It’s all about the mindset and the mentality of entitlement," she added, encouraging people to "live against the mainstream".

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