Yemen: How Many Women Have Been Subject to Sexual Harassment?

An article [ar] published in pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat on May 2, claiming that 90% of Yemeni women have been subject to sexual harassment, has caused a stir online.

While many Twitter users admitted that there was a problem with harassment in Yemen, the percentage quoted in the newspaper divided them.

Marwan Almuraisy wanted the newspaper to apologise:

@almuraisy: غرّدوا تحت هذا الهاشتاغ حتى تعتذر صحيفة الحياة عن الخطأ المهني الجسيم وراسلوهم على حسابهم ‎‪#AlHayatFail‬‏ ‎@alhayatdaily‏
Tweet with this hashtag and to this account until Al Hayat newspaper apologises for this grave professional mistake ‎‪#AlHayatFail‬‏ ‎@alhayatdaily

Almuraisy added in a tweet addressed to Al Hayat deputy editor Jameel Theyabi:

@almuraisy: أي شخص منصف يعلم أن نسبة ٩٠٪ مرفوضة حتى بالنسبة لأكثر الدول تفسخًا وانحلالاً فكيف ببلد محافظ كاليمن؟ ‎‪#AlHayatFail‬‏ ‎@JameelTheyabi
Any fair person knows that the figure of 90% is unacceptable even for the most liberal and decadent society let alone a conservative society such as Yemen #AlHayatFail‬‏ ‎@JameelTheyabi

Abeer Al Yosofi wondered:

@im_abeer: الى متي والمرأة اليمنيه ضحية لتقارير ليست عادله ولااساس لها من الصحة !! ‎‪#yemen
Until when will Yemeni women be the victim of unfair and unfounded reports? #yemen

She said:

@im_abeer: انا ضدالنسبه وبقوه ولست مؤيده ان في وطني التحرش فاق دول تحرشها ١٠٠٪ صح في تحرشات لفظيه لكن ليس بنسبة ٩٠٪ وليس في اغلب الاماكن!
I object strongly to the percentage and can't accept that harassment in my country exceeds that in countries where harassment is 100%. Yes there is verbal harassment but it is not 90% and not everywhere

Cartoon about harassment by Mohammed Al Ridaei. Image from the Safe Streets campaign Facebook page.

However, other people felt the problem needed to be addressed. Lamis Al Wadeai tweeted:

‏@MiSo0o0o0o: تحدّي لكل واحد منكر: يلبس بالتو ويتلثم وينزل الاسواق والجامعات والباصات في اليمن..و يجي بعدين يفتي في النسبه
I challenge any man who denies this to wear an abaya and cover his face and go to the markets and universities or on buses in Yemen…and after that he can come and dispute the percentage

Muna tweeted:

@ArabsUnite: Cant believe some in Yemen R surprised @ high % of women who experience harassment. Striving4change means acknowledging flaws in our society

Alia Eshaq tried to clarify the meaning of harassment:

@aliaeshaq: للتوضيح…التحرش يضم كل قول او فعل. ومافيش بنت مش بيتم التحرش بها لفظيا علي الاقل! حاربوا الظاهره لو زعلانين‎‫
For clarification: harassment includes everything which is said or done, and there is no Yemeni girl that hasn't been harassed, at least verbally! Fight this phenomenon if you are angry

Najla Al Hamadi linked to an article in the Yemen Times about an initiative to fight street harassment. She made some suggestions of her own:

@NajlaAlhamadi: الحل 1تغير نظرة المجتمع الدنيوية تجاه المرأة 2 وضع قوانين نافذة لردع اي متحرش 3قوانين تحمي المرأة وتحفظ كرامتها ‎‫#نرفض_تقرير_الحياة_اليمنيات‬‏
Solutions: 1. change society's low perception towards women 2. put in place laws to deter harassers 3. laws to protect women and maintain their dignity

A campaign against sexual harassment in Yemen called Safe Streets (Facebook) [ar] was started by activist and blogger Ghaidaa Motahar last year. The campaign made this video to raise awareness and address the issue of harassment:

Mohammed Alnehmi commented:

@m_alnehmi: حتى وان كانت النسبة 10% ساندوا حملة شوارع امنة وكفوا اذى المتحرشين
Even if the percentage was 10% support the Safe Streets campaign and stop the harassers

Al Hayat newspaper did apologise for the high percentage it had quoted, saying it was an exaggerated figure based on a regional study.

Rather than addressing the issue and providing solutions, a lot of time and effort was wasted debating and dismissing the figure, which was extremely high. Whether we like to admit it or not harassment in all its forms – stares, words or actions – is widespread. It is something that many women in Yemen's main cities, just as in other countries in the region, are subject to. The phenomenon needs to be acknowledged and addressed properly, starting by teaching proper family values and incorporating them into the educational system, designing media campaigns to address harassment, and introducing and applying laws. In this way we will be able to enjoy safe streets.

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