Street Harassment in Jordan

As Jordanian women leave the home and enter public life, sexual harassment has reached unprecedented levels of social acceptability.

| Winter 2014

  • Sexual harassment is global, but in Jordan and other Arab countries it has reached unprecedented levels of social acceptability.
    Photo by Flickr/Mr. Littlehand

Every morning, Miriam (names have been changed to protect anonymity) gives herself plenty of time to catch the 7:10 bus that passes her apartment and takes her to work. One day in early January, however, the bus didn’t come. She had no choice but to take a taxi.

When one pulled up, another woman was already sitting in the back, in accordance with local norms, as the front is reserved for males. The driver “asked me to sit in the front seat, because the woman was sitting by the door,” Miriam recalls. “So I did, thinking that the woman would be with me the whole ride. But at some point she got out, and I didn’t go to the back seat.” Flashes of disgust and anger punctuate Miriam’s otherwise reserved tones.

The driver “started talking about the weather, saying, ‘It’s really cold out today.’ I thought it was a nice day, and I said, ‘No, it’s nice.’ He said, ‘Yes, especially when there’s snow. Do you like snow? Do you play with snow?’”

Miriam, who is in her mid-20s, replied that, no, she did not like snow.

“Then he said, ‘I have female friends that … tell me when they play with snow and feel the snow against their bodies, it’s an amazing feeling.’” Miriam was certain by now that something was quite wrong, and she worried the driver might try to touch her. But when she looked over, his hand was inside his pants, moving.

The driver continued talking about snow until she convinced him to let her out. “That day, I didn’t want to see any man,” she says. “I wished I worked with only women.”

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