In a video that has been making the rounds on social media, men are seen verbally and physically harassing two women in the streets of the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh.
Disappointingly, the bulk of the online comments has played into the victim-blaming narrative, pointing out that one of the women was wearing a t-shirt, rather than an abaya, and calling for the return of the religious police.
The video, which seems to have been taken by someone in the harasser's car, captures two women walking side by side. One is donning the traditional abaya, while the other is wearing loose pants with a t-shirt and is covering parts of her hair.
The men in the car are heard calling out for the women, verbally harassing them from afar and asking them where they are headed, while the car pulls up close.
Towards the end of the short video, one of the men takes out his arm and reaches out to touch the woman in the t-shirt, after which the latter moves away.
How the rest of the incident unfolds remains unclear.
The hashtag #تحرش_بفتاه_متبرجه_اعيدو_الهييه, which translates to "Harassment of unveiled girl, bring back the committee," quickly made it to the top trends on Twitter in the kingdom.
The hashtag title indicates two things: a) Many people are blaming the woman for the way she was dressed and b) Some are calling for the religious police to regain its powers.
The religious police, formally known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, patrols the streets of the kingdom to make sure residents comply with Islamic Sharia. It was blocked from practicing any form of law enforcement in 2016.
Its roles include enforcing the kingdom's strict dress code and unbending the separation of men and women.
Many social media users blamed the victim for harassment
"Yesterday, an expat was walking around almost naked. Today, another follows suit. These are not isolated cases, but agendas to spread chaos and division."
"We don't know whether to blame this cheap girl, or the uneducated teenage guys, or the decision to cancel the committee."
Thankfully, these uninformed excuses were shot down by several users who spoke up on the behalf of all women, reminding the world to focus on the real issues at hand:
Harassment knows no dress code
"Wearing makeup (Harassment). Niqabi (Harassment). Before the committee (Harassment). After the committee (Harassment). The solution: A law that punishes harassers."
Society needs education, not a committee
"To the proponents of the return of the committee: Excuse me, is the committee preventing our people from deviation? So, it educates and disciplines us?"
"The problem is that some members of our society believe that these issues would be resolved by the committee. We need awareness and education before anything else."
A harassment law is much-needed
"We call for a harassment law. They say, 'No, we want the committee to return'. Law is stronger than the committee because it's fixed and not subject to anyone's mood."
A study reported in Al-Monitor in 2014 found that nearly 80% of women in Saudi Arabia aged 18 to 48 have experienced sexual harassment. This proves the dire need for a law protecting women from harassment and punishing perpetrators.
In 2014, a coalition of nine lawyers attempted to pass a national harassment law that would enforce fixed penalties on perpetrators, but the draft faced opposition from several Shura Council members.