Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Sexual Harassment and Attempts to Reimpose Male Dominance

Sexual Harassement
An Egyptian activist draws graffiti depicting a woman and reading in Arabic: “No to Sexual Harassement” on a wall outside the presidential palace in Cairo on December 14, 2012. Photo: PATRICK BAZ / AFP

Nour Abbas

Do you think that human trafficking, especially that targets women and children, no longer exists? If you answered with yes, then let me say that you were wrong.

This is what the American ethics professor David Batstone tried to explain in detail in his book “Not For Sale”. If you look at wars around the world in this century and last ones, you will find that human trafficking movement continues to exist and it depends mainly on victim deception. According to Batstone, no country has effectively managed to protect women and children who are targeted by human trafficking. He named this process modern-day slavery. Such a process might occur in orphanages where children are prepared to work in prostitution. Illegal female immigrants might also be deceived and then sold to brothels. Such terrible incidents are covered by some corrupt lawmen.

We are talking here about a whole movement, run by gangs. But what about these deeds that are done by individuals in the society, like sexually harassing women and children or even raping them? Do these deeds also reinforce individual slavery?

In a recently published research paper, American psychology professor Shawn Megan Burn tried to explain the causes of the sexual harassment of women. According to Burn, sexual harassment phenomena might initially occur for evolutionary reasons like the desire of mating. Nevertheless, she then excluded that reason because humans have developed their capacity for observation. She attributed harassment phenomena to man’s feeling of incompetence or his desire to claim more entitlements than women in society or just to impose authority.

Psychologists agree that the harasser is a psychopath, a sadistic and a Machiavellian person. They know that one of the main traits of the Machiavellian personality is manipulating others and reaching goals through deception.

If sexual harassment is a tool that male harassers use to reimpose their lost sense of authority, what will be then the punishment that can deter such an approach?

The United States might be the country that enforced the firmest punishments. Punishment there could end up with a life sentence. In countries like the Czech Republic, some harsh measures are taken against sexual harassers. Punishment there could reach to castration. In other countries like Saudi Arabia, harassers are imprisoned for 5 years. In Bahrain, they are deprived from some of their educational rights.

But in some Arab countries, like Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria, punishment doesn’t exceed imprisonment for 3 month or forcing the aggressor to pay half a dollar as a fine for verbal harassment. It is also interesting to know that penal codes in these countries are similar. For example, article 506 of Syrian penal code issued in 1943, states that: “If anyone offered indecent proposal on a minor who is under 15 years old or on a girl or a woman who is over 15 year old or targeted them with indecent language, he will be imprisoned for 3 days or pay a fine that doesn’t exceed 75 Syrian pounds or both punishments.”

Sexual harassment might happen to anyone of us. Many sexual harassment incidents occurred to women working in the media sector. The same applies to artists and journalists. This might even on social media platforms. An example for such incidents is what Mira Abdullah, director of “Women in News” program, said for Daraj. According to her, 78% of workers in journalism have been targeted with harassment. It is interesting to know that victims weren’t only women!

Studies show that sexual harassment reaches its highest percentage in societies that devalue women’s statue. Nevertheless, the same studies don’t refer to laws that neither underestimate harassment nor mention societal justification for such acts that turn victims into aggressors and support harassers’ claims. Would it be a surprise if reports state that the highest percentage of sexual harassment in the world is witnessed in Afghanistan? Would it be a surprise if Egypt was second? In the absence of statistical centers in other Arab countries, such as Jordan, Syria and Morocco, is it possible to expect a similar percentage of harassment in these countries?

Since psychological effects of sexual harassment stick to the victim along her life as field studies approved, we have to ask about the future of our decaying societies that are shaped by bad laws and not taking care of men needs. Such societies force victims to blame themselves forever! They even punish who report about harassment. In short, we live in societies where laws sorrowfully don’t pay attention to such huge crises.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

user placeholder
written by
All Fanack articles