“I was fired because I dared to say NO”: sexual harassment incidents commonly increasing in Lebanese universities

“I was fired because I dared to say NO”: sexual harassment incidents commonly increasing in Lebanese universities
by Vanessa Herro

17 June 2015 | 15:28

Source: by Vanessa Herro

  • by Vanessa Herro
  • Source: Vanessa Herro
  • Last update: 17 June 2015 | 15:28

Many girls, in their juvenile years, enroll in universities to seek a long desired dream only to find themselves a couple months later traumatized by the reality of life in Lebanon.

Every day we hear more and more stories about decent-looking girls being sexually harassed in schools, universities and workplaces. Recent incidents prove how common sexual assaults are becoming in the Lebanese society raising the concerns of the administrations prompting them to integrate new policies regarding cases of harassment in all its forms (physical, sexual or even moral).

On October 21, 2014 AUB's official student newspaper "Outlook" issued an article about cases of sexual harassment on campus. Seemingly, students dare to voice their concerns on the increase of tuition fees and all other trivial matters but when it comes to the subject of sexual harassment they ask for their real names not to be disclosed.

Professors, who are involved in this pathetic act, won't take no for an answer when girls refuse to show a mutual interest in them. The situation has blown out of proportion though as often these girls receive unjustified zeros on their midterms and assignments. In most of the cases, the victims turn out to be the scapegoats when the teacher decides to file a report to the administrating claiming that in fact, they were the one who were inappropriately approached by the student.

Fortunately, and after several incidents of this sort broke out in AUB, the University's administration engaged itself in taking drastic measures in order to address this matter in terms of its codes and protocols. "The incidents are out there. People know about them, and the university is doing its best to examine these claims," said Dr. Talal Nizameddin, Dean of Student Affairs.

Today, AUB students benefit from having a direct access of a relatively new online system (safereport.aub.edu.lb) that allows them to file their complaints anonymously.

In the light of these widespread incidents, Annahar interviews Ghinwa, the latest victim of sexual harassment in workplaces that we know of. She tells her story to Annahar with a tinge of repulsion in her voice. Losing her father at a young age and having a mother who remarried and built her own life, Ghinwa was left with no other choice but to pack her bags and leave her small northern village with the little money she had on her in the hope of getting a decent degree in psychology in one of Beirut's known universities (which name wasn't revealed). She worked in one of the university' departments earning a modest salary that would help her cover all her needs in addition to getting a reduction on the university 'tuition fees. Her boss started showing an unusual interest in her by sending her inappropriate text messages. She claims that she tried to elude his phone calls at the beginning until one day he sexually harassed her and she consequently decided to inform the department's head director of the incident.

Yet, to her surprise, the director dealt with the situation by transferring her to another department and not by firing the accused man. "Here in our society, the girl who is a victim of sexual harassment becomes guilty if she speaks" says Ghinwa in her interview with Annahar.

However, her former boss didn't cease to try to reach her and was determined to get the girl he had an eye for. "I was put under too much pressure in the department which I was transferred to, I wasn't allowed to participate in any of the activities and I started feeling useless" said Ghinwa. "My former boss kept on trying to call me so I recorded all of his calls and saved all of his messages. The administration asked me to resign and back then I didn't have any other employment so when I demanded to ask the Dean of the University they took me to psychiatrist accusing me of inventing unrealistic stories [...] I was fired because I dared to say NO!", she added.

In this context, lawyer Kareem Nammour confirms to Annahar that a new project is being implemented by various organizations in order to incorporate new amendments to the article number 7 of the Lebanese labor law. The amendments will include the requirement of the employers to ensure a sane working environment by integrating an article on sexual harassment in workplaces and the procedures the victim should follow in order to report the incident.

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