Sexual Harassment accusations bringing high-profile people down, when will Lebanese Victims speak up?

Though we’re all saddened by the news that season 6 of ‘House of Cards’ has been canceled by Netflix, we should be glad victims of sexual harassment are coming forward publicly and holding their aggressors culpable.

Sexual Harassment has been a recurrent topic recently and allegations rising against high-profile individuals, such as Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, even Donal Trump – who became president regardless, and their likes are picking up the public’s attention with the concerned’s careers being at risk.

With all this news coming from Hollywood, the white house, and other parts of the world, you can’t help but wonder when will Lebanese victims of sexual harassment speak up, louder. And let’s not pretend this doesn’t happen in Lebanon, because, bitch please.

Stories of sexual harassment are frequent in Lebanon. I can clearly remember 1 incident of harassment that happened to me and how it left me baffled for a while, among other encounters that were minor — and I could smell the stench of it happening, so I got out before it was too late. At the time of this incident I didn’t know what to do and mostly felt ashamed that this took place, while questioning my looks and behavior to see if I insinuated something.  But later, as the incident became distant and as I shared it with some of my friends, it was clear that it was nothing I did, and that predators are predators. I couldn’t report the man at the time, I was young, and can’t recall his name now even… but aslan, which law would condemn him?

However, we all know this behavior is recurrent in some companies and work-places — “do this and you’ll get the job” approach or “do this and you’ll get promoted”; we’ve all heard the rumor that that’s the hiring policy of one of Lebanon’s biggest TV channels for instance. We all know that sexual harassment happens in our universities as well, when professors who are not necessarily approached by students, like “Ross Geller” in friends, make a pass at their students and promise them higher grades for a favor in return. And, sexual harassment is of course present in our religious institutions too, as well as it pollutes our streets – who hasn’t been tailed on the highway ladies and gents?

But what’s the policy that universities and companies are enforcing against these men or women? Since no one reporting these incidents is seeing a true change in the system. Transferring someone to another department is not a real sentence for sexual harassment aggressors. But these most-of-the-time high-profile people are protected by their institutions, for the simple reason of avoiding “jorsa” – embarrassment, and of course since there is not one law that criminalizes sexual harassment in Lebanon yet.

Minor sexual harassment is present everywhere in Lebanon, with a “mni7 shou 3melna” attitude as if any unwanted sexual pass at someone is a light-hearted joke. And this is not merely a woman to man issue, or vis versa, but it also includes victims from the LGBT community – because some think that being open about your sexuality means being open to sexual acts with anyone anywhere without your consent.

So cry all you want about House of Cards being canceled and Dustin Hoffman losing his charm, at least some are safer. In hopes that some Lebanese men and women will speak up louder about the issue and finally, collectively, be able to criminalize Sexual Harassment in Lebanon.

 

 

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