28/08/2017 16:29 BST | Updated 29/08/2017 04:25 BST

Sexual Harassment In Morocco, When Will It Stop?

STRINGER via Getty Images

As Morocco appears to be rocked by the latest sex attack, where six men sexually assaulted a young woman on a public bus in Casablanca, in the middle of the day, in front of other passengers, I was not overly surprised.

Detailed media reports and a video released on YouTube show six shirtless men laughing, as they groped a young woman and attempted to pull off her clothes, while the bus driver and the other passengers on board, did nothing.

The blatant nature in which this sex attack was carried out in public, is demonstrative of a very deep rooted problem that is found not only in Morocco, but in many countries throughout the world.

It is a problem of very disturbing and very unsettling attitudes towards women.

These attitudes come from the idea, that it is somehow acceptable to harass, taunt, leer at or physically assault a woman.

They come from the idea that it is somehow acceptable for men to make excuses for why they are allowed to perpetrate disgraceful acts of disrespect and violence towards women, which are usually based around claims that they are unable to stop themselves from doing so.

Having spent five weeks travelling through Morocco, I can certainly attest to the presence of such attitudes in Morocco. I can attest that there are very blatant attitudes where it is deemed acceptable for men to force their very disgusting and unwanted sexual thoughts on you.

I was daily and relentlessly subject to aggressive leering and sexual comments from men on the street. I became so uncomfortable with the relentless harassment, that by the time I reached Fes, one of the country's biggest cities, I locked myself into a hotel room for 11 days and didn't leave, because I could just not stand the harassment anymore.

Yet, even in the hotel, I was subject to disparaging remarks and condescending behaviour from the hotel's male staff workers.

The widespread nature of these attitudes towards women in Morocco also became apparent during two talks I conducted as part of the work that I do with my foundation Project Monma, which aims to raise awareness about violence and discrimination against women around the world. At both talks, I brought up sexual harassment and during both talks, no one in the room, man or woman, denied that sexual harassment was a serious problem in Morocco.

One man even explained how whilst he had decided to not sexually harass women, he was criticised by his friends for not doing so. To be a man in Morocco, he explained, you were expected to sexually harass women.

Indeed, all of the women who I met in Morocco, complained about the relentless nature of sexual harassment in the country.

One woman explained how she would always try to take taxis, rather than walk on the street, just to avoid the harassment. Another woman explained how she had bought a car to avoid having to walk on the street, because the harassment was just too bad.

There is no doubt in my mind that Morocco undoubtedly has a serious problem with the way that its men treats its women.

And the sexual assault of this young woman on a Moroccan bus is demonstrative on this.

These young men obviously felt that they would face no repercussions for their actions because they carried out this sexual assault in a public place, in front of others.

They obviously felt that it was something acceptable to do.

What those boys did to that young girl on the bus that day in Morocco, is a consequence of such attitudes.


What those young boys have clearly understood from their society, is that it is acceptable to treat women and girls as sexual objects who are open to be harassed and assaulted for fun.

It is absolutely essential that as a global community we speak up loudly, in whatever way we can, to condemn and criticise not only the men who behave in such a way but to also criticise societies and cultures that promote such discriminatory attitudes towards women. As migration flows increase, particularly into Europe and others parts of this world, this problem is going to become everybody's problem. If there are men in Morocco who believe it is tolerable to sexually assault and harass a woman in Morocco, they will believe that it is tolerable to sexually assault and harass a woman elsewhere.

We need to take immediate action in Morocco and everywhere else where such disgraceful behaviour occurs, to ensure that the men who behave in this way learn that at no times, ever, anywhere, is it acceptable to sexually intimidate, degrade, humiliate or physically assault women. Ever.

Because if we don't, we will continue to see such horrendous acts of violence taking place as we saw on the bus that day in Casablanca and much, much worse.