As the number of Moroccan women subjected to sexual harassment increases and women’s rights organizations call for taking measures against culprits, the Moroccan Network for the Rights of Men (Réseau Marocain pour la Défense des Droits des Hommes – RMDDH) announced that women are not the only victims of sexual harassment.
The number of men harassed by women is still lower than that of women harassed by men, but that does not mean the phenomenon does not exist, said Abdul Fattah Bahjaji, RMDDH president.
“Cases of women harassing men usually occur in the workplace where the woman is in a more senior position, or with drivers and janitors,” he told Al Arabiya. “The man is usually dismissed from his job if he does not comply.”
Commenting on the demonstration women rights organizations are planning to stage in two weeks to protest harassment, Bahjaji stressed that the harassment of women is a demeaning and violent act and that it should be curbed.
However, he objected to the generalizations with which such campaigns are characterized.
“Not every Moroccan man is a molester and generalization is very dangerous because it widens the gap between men and women at the time when all Moroccans are supposed to unite to fight more important battles.”
Bahjaji explained that it is not a war of the sexes, as many like to frame it, but rather a war against poverty, ignorance, and marginalization, which trigger actions like harassment.
“Several other factors also contribute to the rise of this phenomenon, but it starts with the family, where children should be taught to respect others and accept difference. Then comes the school, which instills in them the rules of civil behavior according to which they become good citizens.”
The media, Bahjaji added, plays a major role in directing people towards the proper conduct and in campaigning against such negative phenomena.
“Laws alone are not enough to eliminate this phenomenon,” he said.
For sociologist Abdul Latif Habbashi, the phenomenon of women harassing men is relates to several changes that took place in Moroccan society.
“The traditional laws that used to govern the relationship between men and women started changing, especially regarding the balance of power and one’s relationship with one’s body, as well as sex and sexual identity,” he told Al Arabiya.
Consequently, he explained, new problems began to surface and terms like “men abused by women” and “female harassment of men” came into being.
“These were treated as taboos for a while and are now coming to the light. However, they are still not given enough academic attention, since they are not yet considered to have become a phenomenon.”
Habbashi said it is academic research done on such social patterns that helps to solve problems people are ashamed to talk about, including the harassment of men by women.
“This kind of research conducted in universities and research centers acquaints us with what is happening in society, then proposes solutions. Otherwise, such actions will remain to be regarded as individual incidents,” he said.
The Moroccan Network for the Rights of Men, founded in 2009, is part of a larger initiative that seems to focus attention on men’s rights, not only in terms of sexual harassment, but also as far as domestic violence is concerned.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)