On 4 March HarassMap launched a new campaign with the aim of empowering women to speak out against sexual harassment. The new campaign, called Mesh Sakta or Don’t Be Silent, was launched online with participants posting tips on how to face sexual harassment in the streets. Both men and women participated in the online campaign.
The campaign is meant to serve as a means of counteracting the shaming that happens to harassed women when they seek action against their harassers. Usually, women are discouraged from filing complaints with the police by both people in the street and police officers. Women often find themselves in a weak position when they try to act against their harassers since they do not receive any moral support from the people around them. Some even have to go against their families to file complaints against sexual harassers.
Part of the campaign is providing some examples of women who fought back. As such, HarassMap posted two video testimonies of women who took actions against their harassers. One young girl, Alaa Saad from Fayoum, was able to get a sentence against her harassers. The court initially sentenced him to a year in jail, but he was able to get it reduced to six months in the appeal.
Describing her experience in trying to file a complaint, Saad said: “[At the police station] I found that the violation which I was subjected to in the street was happening again [but now by] all the people there. One non-commissioned officer [writing the complaint] told me that they could hit [the harasser], but [warned me not to] file a complaint, [while another] officer tried to scare, me citing humiliation as the deterrent, and another one accused me of having [a complex] against men.”
The campaign also intends to assure women that they are not alone. While HarassMap provides services that help women report sexual harassment incidences, other organisations, such as Al Nadeem Centre, provide women with psychological council and legal advice. Saad was able to close her case with the help of free legal support of NGOs.
In addition, the campaign encourages women to speak about their experiences to friends and family instead of suffering alone. The realisation of the criminal nature of sexual harassment is key to correctly eliminating it, and that is one of the main goals of the campaign – to create awareness that sexual harassment is not a normal, everyday thing, but a punishable crime. Hence, speaking out is the first step towards societal condemnation.
More information can be found on the HarassMap website and Facebook page.