Khaled AlmaeenaKhaled Almaeena

The arrest of several youth who were filmed harassing two young girls in the Corniche area of Jeddah during the Eid holidays should be an eye opener for all. The authorities should have stricter laws to put a stop to such unruly and indecent behavior in the region. Harassment is now becoming a social menace. I have personally witnessed women, even elderly, being accosted by youth, some young enough to be their sons, in broad daylight in Tahlia Street of Jeddah. They think it is amusing and are very brazen about it. It is time we seriously address this shameful behavior and question the reasons behind such uncivilized acts that are common among the youth. Obviously it has to do with upbringing. Young men in this society are not brought up to respect women in their own homes. Secondly in schools while religious studies form a major part of their curriculum the focus is more on rituals and worship rather than right and wrong. I am sure these youth that harassed the young girls must have fasted and also gone to the mosque in Ramadan. But all that so called “piety” disappeared on Eid day. Many of these young men come from outside Jeddah where it is not the norm to see young girls or women out by themselves. To them it’s a strange phenomena — which by the way should be a normal one!! So they go on the rampage!! Unfortunately cultural barriers that segregate the men from the women within the family do not allow the youth to interact with their sisters, aunts or female cousins. The youth grow up with little respect for women. It is this mentality that influences their behavior. Their women folk are usually subservient, they can’t make any decisions or take any action without the consent of the male guardian. They cannot even leave the house without a male guardian and if they do then they are asking for trouble. Coming from such an environment can we blame them for adopting such a negative attitude towards women. We have to face the bitter truth. Our sisters, daughters and wives are more safe going to restaurants, shopping or the movies alone in adjoining states than they are in Jeddah. And here is where the anti-harassment laws can be helpful. And while Shoura Council members debate and delay such uncivilized acts continue spoiling the social fabric and creating an unhealthy environment. Enough of the absurd justifications and blaming the women for not being accompanied by a male guardian or demanding for more Haia (Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) patrols. We need action. We need clear-cut laws that should be implemented immediately. We need judges and courts that are not anti women and have empathy for their plight. We need a media that not only focuses on the incidents of harassments but also highlights the dangers of their acts that could lead to rape and murder. Anti-harassment laws should be made very clear and be a public knowledge. Above all we need a religious curriculum that also teaches our youth the essence of decency and good behavior. PS: I read that Jeddah seek Guinness entry as “city of festivals”. Well it should also try to be a city of no-harassment. That is our wish and prayer from about 80 km distance from Makkah the holiest spot in Islam. — Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena