There are a lot of things the world disagrees on, but one out of many aspects is the battle women have to fight on a daily basis in the face of sexual harassment. Under this banner, various happenings across countries have been making rounds demonstrating that we aren’t so different after all.
Here are three separate incidents and laws that all show the universal hypocrisy that undercuts anti-harassment movements worldwide.
Denmark’s Ban on Face Veils
Denmark recently banned the use of face veils in public resulting in massive protests by women. They claimed this law to be a direct attack on the religious belief of several women residing in Germany. Even though the law never used the word “Muslim”, people believe that the law is intended to send a message across widely to Muslim women. Two days after the law was made official, women took to the streets of Copenhagen and Aarhus, wearing the veils and abayas with a plethora of other protestors. Most of them had turned their handkerchiefs and scarves into these veils just to declare solidarity with the cause.
Denmark is not the first to establish this law. By doing so it has followed suit behind France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Catcalling Banned in Ironic France
Ironically, even though France also imposes the veil ban, something of immense concern recently concurred on the streets of Paris. After the following video went viral across the Internet, the French law stepped in and outlawed catcalling. They announced a heavy penalty for all those caught in the act.
Parce que j’ai répondu à son harcèlement, un homme m’a frappée en pleine rue, en pleine journée, devant des dizaines de témoins. Inadmissible. Stop au harcèlement de rue. #noustoutes #metoo #balancetonporc #harcelementderue @MarleneSchiappa https://t.co/lV9AIKndlX
— Marie Laguerre (@may_lgr) July 28, 2018
The video shows a Parisian woman being called sexual slurs and then later being punched in the face in front of a group of people. This resulted in the authorities of France officially making catcalling and all forms of street harassment lawfully punishable. The fine is said to be as hefty as €750, which is a flopping sum of $871.
Though this declares the French Law establishing a zero tolerance policy towards female debilitation, their ban on Muslim women wearing face veils makes little sense. It is quite ironic that where they intend to protect the rights of certain women, they are demanding other women to surrender their culture in the face of an absurd law.
Wondering How Pakistan Fits this Global Narrative of Women’s Rights and Harassment?
Meesha Shafi recently took Ali Zafar to court after publicly calling him out for sexual harassment. After two court hearings, allegedly both of which Shafi failed to attend, her case was dismissed by the court. The appeal that was put in by the Battle of the Bands judge under the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010, was dismissed on certain grounds.
The grounds declared by the law were that because Shafi was never an actual employee, she was not under any obligation to be present at the said venue with Zafar. Therefore, the court declared that the case does not fall under the act. However, Shafi intends to take this case further by explaining to the court that since the session at Zafar’s residence was in lieu of a work event, it can be categorized as workplace harassment. So anti-harassment laws do little if the society always finds a way to make things difficult for the potential victim.
The three cases above though deal with sexual harassment in various ways; they also go to show how this matter prevails everywhere. Albeit in different forms, sexual harassment and its increasing rate is a call for concern. It is an epidemic that has taken over every culture and country and needs to be dealt with at both legal and passive grounds to ensure the restoration of order, peace, acceptance, and freedom for women of all cultures, workplaces, and ethnicities. And while these laws are enacted, it is impossible that their universality prevails. Otherwise it would be a pity to claim that #MeToo catered to all women the same.