Cementing a woman’s right to freely exist in public spaces without harassment, a KSA-based initiative is educating bystanders in interventional techniques, and showing that street harassment is never acceptable. In a regional first, the Himayah Organization – Saudi Arabia’s first and only women’s rights non-profit dedicated to protecting women from gender-based violence – has now partnered with L’Oreal Paris to bring the Stand Up Against Street Harassment program to the kingdom. The online program helps support street harassment victims, with the goal of training potential bystanders in street harassment intervention techniques, and combating the ‘bystander effect’. The campaign has also tapped Saudi celebrities including singer Aseel Omran to highlight the program.
Following the kingdom’s 2018 announcement that its Shura Council had formally criminalized sexual harassment and promised anonymity for victims, the Stand Up Against Street Harassment ‘5Ds’ program teaches how to safely respond when a victim of street harassment, as well as how to intervene when witnessing street harassment targeted at someone else. Aiming to train 35,000 people in the next two years, the program also explains the nuances of harassment as a gendered crime, with a majority of women encountering street harassment multiple times, with case severity ranging from more insidious examples such as leering, cat-calling and unwelcome gestures, to physical violence and sexual contact. A 2019 international survey conducted by L’Oreal Paris and IPSOS revealed that 80% of women have experienced street harassment in a public space at least once previously. While the initiative reports that only 11% of people would intervene in a street harassment scenario, 81% of harassment victims report that they wish someone else had stepped in to help and intervene in a distressing situation.
Previously partnering with L’Oreal Paris, global NGO group Hollaback! launched the Stand Up Against Street Harassment program in 2020, with 150,0000 individuals from 16 countries so far graduating from the course. Those interested in undergoing training for the Stand Up Against Street Harassment campaign can register at standup-international.com.