In Saudi Arabia, social media is helping reveal the harassment of women

Huffington Post reports: In recent years, an increasing number of women in Saudi Arabia have used social media as a resource to document and confront the ongoing problem of harassment. As Noura bint Afeich wrote in Al-Monitor last year, “Posting photos and videos documenting certain events has shed light on sensitive topics that the kingdom wishes to avoid dealing with.”

Women are harassed at workplaces, in malls and on city streets. Yet in Saudi Arabia’s conservative society, instances of physical harassment are rarely reported to authorities, for fear it will bring shame or embarrassment. In a national survey conducted in 2014 by the Riyadh-based King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, 80 percent of participants attributed sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia to women’s “deliberate flirtatious behavior.”

Amid this climate of shame and underreporting, the data reveal a pressing problem. Six sexual harassment cases are reported every day, as statistics published by the country’s Ministry of Justice have shown. In 2013 and 2014, a total of 3,982 harassment cases made it to Saudi courts, with the largest share of offenses taking place in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

But the growing outrage throughout the country — prompted in large part by social media — has had an effect, leading the very conservative kingdom to consider legal measures to combat the problem. [Continue reading…]

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