Moroccan video sparks debate on sexual harassment

RABAT: A video showing a group of men hounding a young woman walking alone in a Moroccan street has been shared widely on social media, sparking a heated debate in the North African country.
The video, lasting just 10 seconds, shows a clearly panicking woman in jeans and a T-shirt being chased by a large group of young men.
The mob tries to surround her on a well-known avenue in the northern town of Tangiers.
The video triggered contrasting reactions on social media. Some condemned the young men, but others blamed the woman for wearing “indecent” clothes and suggested she was promiscuous.
“She can strip off if she wants, but not in our conservative town,” wrote one.
Another wrote that the woman “got what she deserved.”
Moroccan media and human rights activists condemned the harassment.
“I am as scandalized by this violent and collective aggression as by the reactions blaming the victim for her supposedly provocative dress, although she wore only simple jeans and a T-shirt,” said Nouzha Skalli, a gender rights activist and former women’s minister.
Mustapha Ramid, minister of state for human rights, said Moroccan law “condemns harassment of women at work, but not in public spaces.”
But he said Parliament was examining a “comprehensive” bill that would for the first time criminalize harassment in public places.
Media outlets said the incident reflected a wider problem in society.
“The group chase of a young Moroccan woman brings to the forefront the issue of sexual harassment,” said Hespress.ma, Morocco’s most popular news website.
Another popular site, Ladepeche.ma, suggested harassment had become “a national sport.”
Morocco has been ruled since 2011 by the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which came to power following Arab Spring-inspired protests.
Official discourse plays up Morocco’s long tradition of religious moderation.
But official figures show that nearly two out of three Moroccan women are victims of violence. That violence is most visible in public places.
Many women say walking alone in the street has become uncomfortable. Many have been subjected to derogatory remarks, insults and sexual assault.
“It’s a real crisis of values in our society,” said Khadija Ryadi, former president of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) and 2013 winner of a UN award for human rights work.
In the heart of Rabat, few women sit on the terrace in the countless cafes that line the famous Boulevard Mohammed V.
“We’re in an upscale neighborhood! Go and look in the poorer parts of town. Women are excluded from the public space,” said Sara, a resident of the district in her 30s.
“Not to mention conservative cities or remote villages. This gives you an image of the male hegemony.”
Skalli said the issue reflects a “traditional culture” which regards public space as reserved for men and “the presence of women as an undue intrusion.”
She said there had been an upsurge in public harassment of women, revealing the contradictions of a society torn between modernity and conservatism.
That pits the “liberalization of morals, which legitimizes sexual attraction toward women and trying to seduce them” against “a misogynistic and aggressive ideology which accuses women of dressing provocatively and considers them responsible” for being harassed.
Recent years have seen several high-profile cases of sexual assault, especially on beaches, where women are increasingly reluctant to wear swimsuits.
Harassment is often collective and carried out by young people who consider themselves “defenders of virtue,” Skalli said.

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RABAT: A video showing a group of men hounding a young woman walking alone in a Moroccan street has been shared widely on social media, sparking a heated debate in the North African country.
The video, lasting just 10 seconds, shows a clearly panicking woman in jeans and a T-shirt being chased by a large group of young men.
The mob tries to surround her on a well-known avenue in the northern town of Tangiers.
The video triggered contrasting reactions on social media. Some condemned the young men, but others blamed the woman for wearing “indecent” clothes and suggested she was promiscuous.
“She can strip off if she wants, but not in our conservative town,” wrote one.
Another wrote that the woman “got what she deserved.”
Moroccan media and human rights activists condemned the harassment.
“I am as scandalized by this violent and collective aggression as by the reactions blaming the victim for her supposedly provocative dress, although she wore only simple jeans and a T-shirt,” said Nouzha Skalli, a gender rights activist and former women’s minister.
Mustapha Ramid, minister of state for human rights, said Moroccan law “condemns harassment of women at work, but not in public spaces.”
But he said Parliament was examining a “comprehensive” bill that would for the first time criminalize harassment in public places.
Media outlets said the incident reflected a wider problem in society.
“The group chase of a young Moroccan woman brings to the forefront the issue of sexual harassment,” said Hespress.ma, Morocco’s most popular news website.
Another popular site, Ladepeche.ma, suggested harassment had become “a national sport.”
Morocco has been ruled since 2011 by the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which came to power following Arab Spring-inspired protests.
Official discourse plays up Morocco’s long tradition of religious moderation.
But official figures show that nearly two out of three Moroccan women are victims of violence. That violence is most visible in public places.
Many women say walking alone in the street has become uncomfortable. Many have been subjected to derogatory remarks, insults and sexual assault.
“It’s a real crisis of values in our society,” said Khadija Ryadi, former president of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) and 2013 winner of a UN award for human rights work.
In the heart of Rabat, few women sit on the terrace in the countless cafes that line the famous Boulevard Mohammed V.
“We’re in an upscale neighborhood! Go and look in the poorer parts of town. Women are excluded from the public space,” said Sara, a resident of the district in her 30s.
“Not to mention conservative cities or remote villages. This gives you an image of the male hegemony.”
Skalli said the issue reflects a “traditional culture” which regards public space as reserved for men and “the presence of women as an undue intrusion.”
She said there had been an upsurge in public harassment of women, revealing the contradictions of a society torn between modernity and conservatism.
That pits the “liberalization of morals, which legitimizes sexual attraction toward women and trying to seduce them” against “a misogynistic and aggressive ideology which accuses women of dressing provocatively and considers them responsible” for being harassed.
Recent years have seen several high-profile cases of sexual assault, especially on beaches, where women are increasingly reluctant to wear swimsuits.
Harassment is often collective and carried out by young people who consider themselves “defenders of virtue,” Skalli said.

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