Zero tolerance for sexual harassment
There are steps authorities can take to ensure the safety and respect of all. Al Ameen, a 24-hour hot line launched by Dubai Police in 2003, offers one such solution. Police response is quick, and complaints are anonymous, allowing women who would not normally come forward to lodge grievances. Similar hotlines - so-called blue-light emergency phones - are prevalent throughout US university campuses to protect students walking alone at night.
Such services not only ensure the safety of all community members, but can be used to collect data in order to more broadly analyse harassment trends. Plotting data points of where and when incidents occur can help authorities determine harassment "hot-spots", allowing authorities to craft policy and enforce it based on statistical evidence rather than anecdotal tales. Since the Dubai hotline was installed over 7 years ago, for instance, police have been able to statistically document a drop in complaints. Similar data would be useful to analyse the situation in the rest of the Emirates.
Such actions could change worries over personal safety highlighted in a YouGov Siraj survey conducted earlier this year. According to The National's poll in February, over 40 per cent of women had experienced or knew of someone subject to sexual harassment; that number rose to 60 per cent for verbal harassment and intimidation. In the best of all worlds, these statistics would be zero - but that is never reached anywhere. An emirate-wide strategy backed by Governmental authorities could at the very least begin to reduce these numbers, and make scarce the troubling stories that accompany them. These stories that should not be part of the country's modern narrative. No woman should be scared to walk alone at night. With a proper response in place, it is the aggressors who should be afraid.
Published: September 27, 2010 04:00 AM