News / Middle East

Libya Women Report Increased Harassment

FILE - Women wait to vote at a polling station during national assembly elections in Tripoli, July 7, 2012.
FILE - Women wait to vote at a polling station during national assembly elections in Tripoli, July 7, 2012.
Sexual harassment of women is increasing in Libya and women complain that combined with the general lawlessness in the country their daily lives are becoming more of an ordeal and perilous.

It was bad under former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi with men jostling, groping and pestering women in shops, universities and offices and demanding sex but since his ouster two years ago harassment has worsened, say activists and ordinary women.

British expatriate Anne has lived in Libya since 1965.  VOA is using only first names as activists fear being targeted.

“It is worse now. When I first came over there was very little harassment of women. In general, the youngsters were very respectful and friendly," said Anne.

The Gadhafi family and their top officials were notorious for abducting women, sometimes spotting them at hair salons or shops. Women would be summoned from their homes after they had been noticed at social events, according to a recently published book Gaddafi's Harem by Le Monde journalist Annick Cojean.

That behavior spread through society, convincing men beyond the power circles that women were fair game, says Nisreen.

“The Gadhafi time there was a lot of sexual harassment and the generations have now grown up with that,” she added.

She says that post-revolution sexual harassment in Libya’s capital and the bigger cities has increased and is now at a different level, with lawlessness making the country more dangerous. 

Going out alone or even with female friends risks verbal and sometimes physical abuse, she says. Even shopping has become an ordeal.

“You have all these youngsters who are high on drugs and drunk and who are going around and when they see someone they like or whatever and they start harassing her," said Nisreen.

Libya isn’t the only Middle East country to be experiencing a post-Arab spring explosion of sexual harassment.

In May the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality reported that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment or violence. Nearly 50 percent of women reported more harassment after the revolution ousting ex-president Hosni Mubarak.

Without a functioning police force there are no statistics available to know how frequent the problem is in the Middle East.

But activists in Libya say it is pervasive and that women are afraid to report harassment fearing they will be harassed by police when they do.

Leila, another activist, says many professional women try to find work they can do from home. She thinks twice about running errands.

“I can’t even walk to the next-door grocery store. I have to take the car,” she said.

Angry about the harassment, activists have followed an example set in Egypt and launched a “Don’t Harass Me” website to record incidents and to try to prod Libyan authorities to act.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Alexander Hagen
November 02, 2013 11:48 AM
First Step in disinformation
Create false equivalency. The idea that a climate of sexual harassment existed prior to the NATO intervention - attempts to create causality. In fact their is no connection between the former Government, which had some of the most progressive policies for Women of any Islamic or Arab countries. This article is typical of the low journalistic standards often found in Western Media. Just anecdotes.

by: Sir from: Libya
November 02, 2013 8:45 AM
I live in Libya right now and this story is just a little off. Specifically Tripoli which is where I am at the moment. Women are out all day walking, driving, working. Judging by the young Libyans that I know, verbal harrasment is the most common type of harassment. Physical harassment is very rare and is frowned upon by the community.

by: moon from: ajk
November 01, 2013 4:08 PM
Mr godwin before commeting on sexul harrsmet in islamist country you must check the stastistcs of your christian states where 65000 rapes were registered last year only in south africa, so imagin what will be the overall statistics of all christian countries, ist look at your own house & than comment on islamist country....

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
November 01, 2013 2:39 PM
What else do you expect in an islmaist country? Women want to wear hijab and cover their faces in inhuman dressing just to prove they are muslims and spite the free world, good for them. But they should stop crying out when it gets beyond their noses to drown them, for surely it will get there and swallow them up. No one should stand up to their rescue. The greatest enemy of the women are the women themselves. Give them a chance, they will make more stringent laws -worse laws - against themselves. So why should anyone cry for them?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs