1 December 2018

Ethiopia: Harassment - Consequence of Social Imperfections

opinion

It is right to be considerate and modest in our dealings with the people we encounter daily. Yet let us face it, sometimes this is easier said than done, especially when there are those that are unfair to us and choose to harass and abuse. It is not right when people impose their wishes upon others and oppress the right to one's liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Like many African women, I am not new to harassment that come from social and professional engagements. Social media aggravates the problem of harassment as perpetrators can easily have access to us and those we care about.

I have dealt with harassment for the past few years by men convinced I have an obligation to comply with their romantic request. It later turned into constant harassment of me, my family and friends. I initially met these Ethiopian men at work, both here and abroad, while on training.

They are persuaded that "no" means "yes." They believe that it is going to be in both their best interest and the women they want to be persistent. It is when the realisation sets in that they are not going to get their way that the abuse takes over.

These are socially accomplished men with passive-aggressive personalities, who will never accept "no" for an answer when it comes to approaching women they want. Their behaviour of disrespecting boundaries shows the lack of character and morals they possess.

There are times when men want a relationship, are told that their feelings are not reciprocated and then respectfully walk away. But I have also dealt with men who lash out in abuse when they did not get their way.

Most people report that they are harassed by people who claim to have a romantic interest in them. Rejections are negatively received and taken as a slight against that person. This is reinforced negatively by cultural behaviour and loos legal protections that encourage violence. There are many iterations of this, the result of which has been bloodied noses, burnt faces, teenage pregnancy and social ostracism.

Since these problems are embedded deeply in society, law enforcement bodies and prosecutors pay little attention to them. With lack of accountability, victims choose to react in a way that harms themselves.

Threats like "you must do what I say or else" flourish at the expense of victims paying the unthinkable price. This also allows harassment to persist and gradually develop into physical violence.

It creates powerlessness and intimidation forcing some victims to take justice into their own hands. Dealing with abusive people who are out to meet their needs, expectations and wishes with no consideration to what others prefer is exhausting.

We all have our own understanding of how we see life. Our perspective is shaped by experience, family, beliefs and personal attitudes. The challenge becomes how we can reconcile opposing beliefs in the interest of solving problems.

Research shows that men who witnessed their fathers using violence against their mothers and men who have been mistreated at home as children are more likely to be self-abusive and commit violence against their partners or those they are attracted to.

This is not civilised, to say the least. One should realise that it is intolerable to force other people to do things they do not want to do. It takes an enlightened mind to accept that the responses to our wishes will not always be affirmative since others also have their own feelings and needs.

Studies show men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low levels of formal education, are maltreated as children, are exposed to domestic violence, abuse alcohol and grow up in an environment where men's sense of entitlement over women is accepted.

Of course, like any worthwhile endeavor, achieving justice for everyone demands an ongoing effort. After all, efforts of respect for human rights and gender equality require the collaboration of everyone. Only then can we all enjoy our dignified rights as humans.

Eden Sahle Is Founder and CEO of Yada Technology PLC. She Has Studied Law and International Economic Law. She Can Be Reached At Edensah2000@gmail.com.

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