Time & time again, I have been persuaded by the Kingdom’s perturbing cases of eve-teasing. A video posted on YouTube last October, showing a group of women being harassed by a few eve-teasers in a parking lot outside a mall, sparked outrage in the media. When the incident surfaced among masses, both the harasser & the harassed were targeted by the public. While the former was accused of utterly unethical & immoral behavior, the latter was criticized to have let that happen due to the absence of a male guardian. As per the official report, Saudi Arabia had registered around 3,000 reported cases of harassment in 2013, where Riyadh topped the list with almost 650 cases, followed by Jeddah & Eastern Province. Those which go unnoticed or unreported may actually be much more than the total figure itself.
The debate drags in a host of other issues, which are said to have contributed for the proliferation of this social evil. There can be many reasons for such incidents. It could sometimes be because of a shopaholic or businesswomen travelling with unknown drivers, ignorance of people about the teachings of religion, demand for freedom of women in the guise of human rights, or more importantly a hooligan on the street searching for a prey! I think the most conducive & threatening of them all are the ones that highlight lone women travelers & uncultured youth, be it because of a force majeure or just to play a vagabond. Despite the fact that women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, it doesn’t necessitate them to be driven around without an actual need. I too am partially of the opinion that women should be allowed to drive, but the more important question that pops up is ‘To end a single problem, should a solution such be devised that gives rise to many other problems?’. The answer would certainly be ‘No’.
If women take to the roads, they would attract unwanted attention of other drivers. I say this merely because the country’s populace is not yet mature enough to see women on the driving seats. To detail a bit about harassment cases here, I would exemplify by mentioning about a sting operation conducted by a chivalrous media personality from Saudi Arabia, Sameera Aziz. The Saudi-journalist through her investigation brought to light the voyeuristic nature of many, if not all, taxi drivers here. She exposed a cab driver accompanied by a fellow journalist in a car behind. Aziz, during the journey, was ogled at, asked personal & utterly irrelevant questions & later accused of having a bad character. This is just one among hundreds of cases of harassment.
One of my primary concerns to write about such a pervasive stigma is to bring about the third perspective associated with all such cases. I in no way intend to target the female of the species, but am just putting the ponder into words. I often observe an unpleasant sight where the both the involved parties indulge in the drama. It is usually said that men tend to start, but it is not always the case. I strongly believe that women need to act responsibly & understand the importance of a virtuous demeanor. Being skimpily dressed, wearing strong perfumes, ostentatious makeup, etc. all contribute to an uncalled for behavior on part of women. Should this & associated activities be controlled, it will definitely bring down the occurrences of harassment.
Till then, we can just pray to the Almighty to protect & guide us all!