In light of the upcoming 16 Days Against Gender-based Violence and our upcoming conference on discrimination and sexual harassment on March 31 and April 1, 2017, the KIP Project launched an online campaign to talk back at street harassment. The campaign, called #NotYourAshta, runs from November 14 – 25 and aims to highlight street harassment as a violation of every citizen’s rights and encourage people to speak out against it and vocalize their resistance against its different manifestations. To bring the conversation to campus, we asked students about their views on street harassment in Beirut.
- Do you ever think that someone might bother or harass you while walking down the street in Beirut?
- What are the resources you resort to for help in this case (of harassment)?
- What do you think should be done to deal with issues of street harassment and the unsafe navigation of public spaces?
Mai Al Khouri – Majorless
I’m originally from Jordan and I feel more safe in Beirut than I do in Amman. I know in Amman [street harassment] was actually a really big issue. You would hear about it every single week and it would happen on a daily basis, even in broad daylight, but in Beirut I feel more safe than I would in Amman. But even then, as a female I’m just kind of always worried, even in the daytime.
I don’t feel as if I have any resources. I kn
ow there’s SheFighter in Jordan but I don’t feel like there are things here, or as if I were to go, even if on the streets if something was to happen, I don’t feel like I could just go up to anyone and ask for help.
Self-defense and awareness [would help] because I don’t feel that women feel comfortable going up to others and being like, ‘help me, there’s this thing happening.” I feel [it’s important] just to be creating a more helpful environment.
Lynn Masri – OSB
If during the day at 8 am I’m worried about [street harassment], what about night time?
If something happens when I’m going to work, or on my way back home, I can call someone, a police officer, there can be NGOS and all of that, but I feel like it’s useless in Lebanon because [of] corruption. I don’t feel like you’re safe or you can do anything about it.
Of course you can enforce stricter laws in schools and academic institutions, raise more awareness, focus more on this issue, but as long as laws in Lebanon and in general are not being reinforced…this law is not going to be any different than other ones.”
Jinan Moumneh – Nutrition
I sometimes think that [street harassment is] possible because I live in off campus dorms and there are some lights that aren’t illuminated, so sometimes I feel like there are people lurking in the corners so I try not to walk back late by myself. There’s not enough lighting.
I think [harassment is] a very disturbing experience, so I would probably need to consult someone or talk to the counseling office. If it happened near AUB I would try to talk to someone that has authority. Other than confiding in friends or family, to go beyond that would be to talk to someone in authority here or to get counseling.
I don’t know what AUB can do about it, but in general, for prevention from us, we shouldn’t walk by ourselves, but that doesn’t make it okay. I don’t know what can be done on a bigger scale. You can put in more lights, but that doesn’t change the fact that someone might still harass you. So I think, I don’t know if this is relevant, but you have to educate people. You have to raise awareness.
Ali Zeineddine – Physics
Beirut is more safe [than other areas] because there are a lot [more] people in public.
I think the first thing we have to do is go to the police station, but in Lebanon [they’re] not that active. Police are not doing their job properly. There are no resources for harassment.
I think by implementing the main role of the police in the streets, like having more safety, having more police, more security. It’s not just about harassment, it’s about safety in general.
Omar Dahduli – Agriculture and Ali Amhaz – Psychology
Omar: Personally I’ve never had that fear, but the streets in Beirut, especially at night, they could be kind of scary when they’re not lit properly.
I think there’s a counseling line, I’m not sure exactly. But I think there’s a number you can call when you get harassed. I think that could be an option.
First of all, I think the streets should be lit properly, that’s the first step. That wouldn’t just solve that problem, but it would also solve the problem of car accidents, for example.
Ali: The kind of harassment or bothering that I feel as a male maybe is a bit different than the one a woman might feel. There are still, let’s say, not very nice people sometimes at night in Beirut who would bother anyone. But not naturally, I’m far less afraid than I would imagine any woman to be if she walks at the time that I would walk in.
Ideally the police [would be a channel to deal with harassment]. I generally don’t know. I wouldn’t go to the police. I don’t know what I would do.
Aside from lighting, on a community level, I think certain groups of people could do some sort of night watch, not just for street harassment, but for anything that is related. At an awareness level, I think the problem with raising awareness in Lebanon and in general, is that it’s often initiated by wealthier individuals who come from mostly Western backgrounds and the target audience tends to be also wealthy individuals with access to this information who may have been exposed to it before, may, not necessarily. It doesn’t reach out to other large layers of the social strata in Lebanon…I think that any kind of awareness should be targeted everywhere, especially in places where there hasn’t been much presence before, and it should be used in their language. Communication should be according to their values, their ideals, their community variables. And as for policy, there’s a lot to work on there.
The KIP Project at AUB is hosted at the Olayan School of Business and funded through a federal assistance award from the US Department of State. The Project aims to support the production and dissemination of knowledge related to gender and sexuality in Lebanon by encouraging multi-stakeholder dialogue and facilitating knowledge-sharing. For questions or suggestions, you can email email@example.com.