Do the women of Kuwait need to carry weapons to defend themselves from sexual harassment nowadays? Has it gotten so bad that no one even thinks twice or bothers when a man feels free to harass a woman or try to touch her in a public place?
Not many people know how to take care of themselves when faced with such a situation. On a regular day to work by bus, a sleeping man with a backpack will sit behind you. It is a typical and unsuspicious scene, but the fact is that most women do not know that this man pretends to be asleep to get the chance to touch women with his hand that he hides under the backpack on his legs. It does not matter if he is sitting next to you or behind you – he will find a way to touch your body “accidentally”. After all, he is tired and fell asleep!
When my car broke down, I took the bus from Kuwait City to Salmiya. Listening to music, I suddenly felt a hand on my waist. I thought it was my imagination, but I saw the hand reaching again from the backseat, trying to go through the small gap in the seat. I turned around and looked at him. He was peacefully sleeping, hiding his hands under his backpack as if nothing had happened. I looked at him and waited till he opened his eyes to check if I had stopped looking. I felt so mad and frustrated when no one did anything when I started to scream at him. He panicked and begged me to not call the police. After a long fight about how shameless he was, I kicked him out of the bus.
No one helped; no one even tried to know what happened! When he tried to change his seat to sit behind another woman whom I warned, she did nothing! It seems her fear controlled her. Sometimes women want to do something but they can’t. Sexual harassment takes place in every society on earth – and its costs are immeasurable. It degrades and terrorizes women, keeping them from going out and forcing them to measure the value of opportunities against the risk to their safety.
Ask any group of women if they’ve ever felt unsafe on public transportation, and the stories will flow. I hope my voice will reach all women. This incident did not happen only once – it will happen to you, your sister or your mother or your daughter, so be prepared to scream and not be ashamed of what people may think, because you are the victim and no one will offer help when you need it.
Unsafe transport not only causes women to change their modes of movement, but it also reduces how many trips they make. There are disheartening statistics about women’s transportation safety around the world – it’s a borderless problem. Don’t be silent – take action even over the slightest inappropriate conduct towards you.
By Faten Omar