My indescribable disgust upon hearing the mention of “sexual harassment” became utter bewilderment when I learned this crime reached a new level of behavioural degeneration in the form of “mass sexual harassment.”
The bewilderment then turned to unending bitterness when I saw pictures of some of the offenders printed by the newspapers who exposed their identities. Some were adolescents and some pre-pubescent.
Bitterness became outrage when I saw a society, oblivious, stagnant, and silent, unable to deter criminals, all of which suffice to describe an obvious defect in the values system and a rift within the foundation of Egyptian identity.
The solution cannot be presented in the confines of an article, or even a series of articles, because the size of the problem is so big that it requires more than the input of a single mind, rather the collective effort of advocates, scientists, educators, writers, legislators, and the media, who will inevitably bring us to safety.
I am strongly convinced that a thorough analysis of the causes of this criminal behaviour will help us create solutions, both short and long-term.
However, the legal and logical obligation requires that we strive without hesitation to punish the aggressor, because despite the psychological state that controls the harasser and has hidden from him the ugliness of his deeds, and the economic and social factors that we will discuss in detail, we face a fully-fledged crime that occurs daily in our streets, universities, and on our public transportation system.
The majority of the suggested solutions to end sexual harassment centre around a bold awareness campaign, increased security, an ignited popular awakening, and strict preventive laws.
For an awareness campaign to be truly bold, it must catch the attention of young people in the streets and in the forums, and make them see that God Almighty forbids as “he forbid blood and money.”
The Prophet, PBUH, spoke of this at the end of his life: “Your blood, money, and dignity are forbidden as the sacredness of day in this month, in this land. Let the witness report to the absent.”
This will cause them to fear the occurrence of the crime upon those closest to them as the Prophet, PBUH, did with the young man who requested he permit him to commit fornication, (“Would you permit this for your mother, your sister? [Hadith]). Perhaps this could have the same effect on a youth whose sense of modesty has disintegrated, and remind him to fear the law, (“Do as you will, as you condemn you will be condemned.”)
Another key to containing the problem is the role of a responsible media. A bleak picture settled in my mind before beginning to write an article on the magnitude of the negative role of the media in ingraining this unfortunate phenomenon, namely its dedication to provoking vulgar sexual desire among the youth who are confused by their feelings of need and desire, among other things, to satisfy this desire which results in indirect provocation.
Worse than this, suggestive depictions of women in the media occur under the guise of light heartedness and wit and are so imprinted on the mind of the viewer who does not distinguish harassment from the pattern of daily life of a fun and open-minded young man.
Even more tragic is the depiction of women as silent and unconcerned by what they are being subjected to, and so the mentally ill harasser then believes that all women are complacent to and pleasured by this servility. Thus, he takes to the streets imagining that all women are at his disposal.
As I watched an episode of the program “Tawqeet El-Qahira” (Cairo Time), which serves as a centre for dialogue on harassment, I was struck by the Centre for Women’s Rights Director Dr. Azza Karim’s explanation of the high percentage of men (62 per cent) who admit to sexually harassing women at least once a week, which she ascribed to watching pornographic films and lustful scenes in dramatic soap operas.
On a similar note, Dr. Ahmed Okasha, professor of psychology, agreed with this theory when he blatantly accused nudity and sexual scenes which youth are bombarded with from satellite channels of being the principal factor behind this deviant behaviour. Pornographic websites are still graver in the way that they rot the foundation of Egyptian society, and many see them as the main reason for the savage way that the harasser views women in general.
Ernst Fischer’s book 'The Necessity of Art' strongly condemns inferior art depicting women as mere tools for stirring passion and satisfying desires, and also stereotyping women as commodities to be consumed.
Similarly, Dr. Judith Reisman, an American researcher, spoke about the dangers of porn sites in her famous testimony before Congress in November 2004. She used expressions and meanings depicting animals to describe the mental image of women that porn sites create in the minds of many.
Such symptoms of pornography are quite common. Newspaper archives still serve as witnesses to the brave criticism by Pope Benedict on April 16, 2008 following the sex scandals of some priests in the United States that were published in newspapers around the world, in which he describes society’s sexual behaviour and pornography in the media as being largely responsible for this problem.
It was for these reasons that we insisted on enacting the necessary legislation to confront this issue through a bill containing a clause banning pornographic websites that offenders use to justify their awful deeds, due to the animalistic depiction of women imprinted on their minds.
In addition, extensive psychological studies on the subject of addiction to pornographic sites, especially among adolescents and young people, show how this inevitably leads to a dangerous deviation from normal sexual behaviour where meeting sexual desires in the natural way becomes impossible, and violent sexual intercourse becomes, in their minds, a pleasure difficult to live without.
Additionally, pornography viewers visit these websites secretly; thus one is able to conclude that the trait of cowardice and vileness will in turn the take root in the depths of the addicts who view these sites. Thus, we arrive at the lethal combination of the basest qualities of humanity, which explains a lot about the behaviour of groups of offenders.
I recall a news article I read at the beginning of 2010, recounting a time when the minister of administrative development, Dr. Ahmed Darwish, saw a police recruit harassing a girl in broad daylight, so he did what he had to do and escorted him to the police station and turned him over. Despite his position as a minister, he did not hesitate in fulfilling his duty, according to his nature and his religion.
Herein lies the importance of the presence of security to deterring harassment, as per our analysis, and clarifies the necessary relationship between society and the police force to put an end to this phenomenon.
We must be clear that the treatment of the offender by the police needs to change completely to produce the desired deterrence instead of strengthening the gall of those who violate the sanctity of the community.