Catcalling and sexual harassment are often issues that we try to shrug off when they should not be. Sexual harassment and catcalling can have detrimental effects on women, yet we dismiss these issues like we never notice the harm they can cause.
A six-week-long media campaign, called Mesh Basita (It’s not Ok) was launched by the American University of Beirut (AUB) and Women’s Affairs Ministry in Lebanon in order to raise awareness about sexual harassment. The aim of the campaign is to get more people to realize that sexual harassment is not something we should be ignoring, shrugging off, or dismissing because it truly is not okay.
The campaign was not only created to raise more awareness about sexual harassment but also to address the fact that no national legislation confronting the issue has been put into place in Lebanon. On their website, the Knowledge is Power (KIP) Project said, “In order to confront the idea that sexual harassment is not a serious issue, ‘Mesh Basita’ stands for the idea that sexual harassment is “not okay.” Offering a double meaning through a message of empowerment, it also suggests that the person is not naïve and that they are taking a stand against harassment. In doing so, the campaign ultimately aims to highlight the need for legislative reform around sexual harassment in Lebanon.
Heather Jaber, the communications coordinator for AUB’s KIP Project on Gender and Sexuality, told The Independent, ““What we’re doing is highlighting something that doesn’t get talked about in Lebanon very often, and it’s been a positive response – many people say they feel relieved they are finally able to talk about it.”
She also added, “What it’s also shown is that there is a lot of problematic discourse around sexual harassment – that it’s nothing, or something to joke about. What a woman is wearing, whether she’s alone, what time of day it is are also issues that have come up. People have reached out to express they think it’s important to change attitudes to that as well.”
The campaign also invites women to share photos and videos of the types of harassment women receive, and the damage it can have, by using the hashtag #MeshBasita. KIP adds, “The campaign encourages all members of the public, including members of private sector, public sector, academia, and civil society, to share their messages. By gathering voices across sector and discipline, the campaign aims to highlight the pervasiveness of the issue and the need for collective action.”
So far Mesh Basita is generating a lot of buzz and is getting many people talking about the Ghina Ghandour. A popular fashion blogger who posted a fictional viral video showing her being assaulted in an elevator, said, “If it were your mother, sister, wife, daughter or granddaughter then it wouldn’t have been OK. We are subjected to this… and we need to mobilize in order to combat these kinds of crimes.”
Hopefully, this campaign will continue to generate some much-needed conversation on this important subject. Perhaps one day soon the campaign will reach its goal and legislation will finally be put into place, in Lebanon. Sexual harassment is not okay, and it never will be. Mesh Basita.
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