Sexual harassment of women in the Arab world is, unfortunately, a daily burden they must carry. For the record, by harassment I do not mean cropping or worse but the act of verbal harassment as in whistling and catcalls.
[Ralph D. Hughes.]
Many Arab men simply do not regard such behavior as rude, but as simple par for the course. An Arab women, especially if she is showing some degree of skin, will be hounded by sexually-deprived adolescent boys. A Tunisian woman, for instance, walking down the street in a skirt can expect dozens of whistles and even some direct catcalls.
I once witnessed a group of men following like a pack of dogs a woman through a supermarket all because she showed a modest degree of skin. It is beyond repulsive because it is so cruel to the woman whom are made to endure such mistreatment. Of course, such harassment exists in all countries. But it has to be among, if not the, worst in the Arab world.
Arab men harassment women without any sense of restraint. Following a woman from behind and explicitly sexual demands are not seen as beyond the pale. I have seen this personally among the guys I hang out with in Tunisia. I, of course, do not engage in such behavior. Not only because it is crude, but because it undermines any chance I would otherwise have in getting the woman to like me. Arab men seem not to consider that logic. Many of them think the woman would turn them down anyway [and they are right], so they might as well get some verbal-sexual release through objectification.
It is a sad picture. The men behave like animals and the women do not challenge such abuse for fear that the guy may even physically harm her. But for the most part women just get used to it as an unfortunate but unavoidable part of daily life.
This was the message the Egyptian National Council for Women, of all people, made when asked why they did not condemn harassment more often: it “happens everywhere”. The Council just accepts harassment is some sort of unchangeable fact and thus worrying about it is a waste of time because the Council needs to work on matters where change is possible; like, say, polygamy laws.
That is an depressing admission of defeat in the face of sexism. But the widespread and unrestrained reality of harassment, if personally witnessed, may make one understand their demoralization in the face of such crudeness.
So much a burden is sexual harassment in the Arab world is that much of the increase in hijab wearing is not out of piousness but simply because most men will not harass a veiled woman so many Arab woman wear the hijab to avoid the catcalls. But even this has limits. An Egyptian man, not long ago, even harassed a veiled woman. There is always a lower level at the bottom of any barrel.