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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs