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Sexual harassment, just another day in Dubai
Dubai’s very own unique brand of sexual harassers are as perplexingly confusing as they are obnoxious, says Eva Fernandes.
September 30, 2010 3:14 by Eva Fernandes
But what thrill could one possibly obtain from unceremoniously hurling scrunched up old parking tickets at pedestrians? Maybe it is the look of utter confusion is as the girl recovers from the toss, rubbing her head and wondering what hit her. Whatever it is, it is something that is seemingly enjoyed by men around the country for I know I am not alone in my experience.
The National features a story about incidents very similar to the one I experienced. The paper says that this very act of providing a girl with your phone number (without her request or consent) is actually a punishable offence in the UAE. Under Federal Law, doing so can land a man a year in the pen or a Dh.10,000 fine, or both. Tarqeem, or “numbering” can involve the act of yelling or screaming out one’s cell phone number, tucking the notorious cell phone number under the wiper of an unsuspecting victim’s windscreen, or presumably the far more charming version of throwing it at the girl’s face from a car.
It seems harsh, but the longer one lives in the city as a female, the more you begin to think maybe the punishment fits the crime. If nothing else, the harsh penalties send a message to Dubai’s peculiar brand of sexual harassers, and they will hopefully also encourage women to be confident enough to report these issues.
And they are seemingly become more common. Consider an Emirates 24/7 report this morning on the usage of Bluetooth by offenders to send lewd messages, or the use of cell phones to take photographs of innocent bystanders. Or what about the more worrying results of recent poll that surveyed women in the UAE and found over 40 percent of women had experienced or knew of someone subjected to sexual harassment, and 60 percent said the same for verbal harassment and intimidation. If we are to combat these crimes, the deterrent must be strong.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised considering the alternative forms of seduction one has access to when living in the Gulf. As Dr Rima Sabban, an assistant professor of sociology at Zayed University in Dubai, observes in the National: “This happens more in conservative societies than in open societies, where the means of communication is open between males and females.”
So perhaps due to frustrations we have the likes of taxi drivers singing upon the arrival of a more attractive female passenger – a choral profession of love: a very romantic idea perhaps, but lost in the execution through a whinny voice and a terrible choice of songs. And not necessarily welcome when all you want to do is get to work in the morning.