“#Mesh_Basita” | “مش_بسيطة#”
Currently, there exists no national legislation specifically confronting sexual harassment in Lebanon. To confront this lack of laws, a number of initiatives by civil society organizations and government entities have recently pushed for legal reform to address sexual harassment in public spaces and at the workplace. Within the last few years, draft laws criminalizing sexual harassment in public spaces and in the workplace have been prepared and submitted by various bodies, the latest of which is now pending voting by the parliament.
The KIP Project on Gender and Sexuality at the Olayan School of Business, American University of Beirut, and in partnership with the Office of the Minister of State for Women’s Affairs, is launching “Mesh Basita,” a national campaign that aims at highlighting the need for legislation around sexual harassment within the Lebanese landscape and mobilizing the general public’s opinion towards pushing for legal reform. While many often tend to downplay instances of harassment, suggesting that these are part of everyday social life, this campaign hopes to highlight the many forms harassment may take in an effort to draw attention to the fact that they are violations.
In order to confront the idea that sexual harassment is not a serious issue, “Mesh Basita” stands for the idea that sexual harassment is “not okay.” Offering a double meaning through a message of empowerment, it also suggests that the person is not naïve and that they are taking a stand against harassment. In doing so, the campaign ultimately aims to highlight the need for legislative reform around sexual harassment in Lebanon.
How to get involved
From July 31 to August 15, 2017, the general public is invited to share their photos, videos, and text which show that sexual harassment is “not okay” and that mechanisms are needed to confront it at the national legislative level in Lebanon. Those interested can use the hashtag “مش _بسيطة#” or “mesh_basita” across various social media platforms in an effort to provide a range of messages around the issue of sexual harassment in Lebanon.
The campaign encourages all members of the public, including members of private sector, public sector, academia, and civil society, to share their messages. By gathering voices across sector and discipline, the campaign aims to highlight the pervasiveness of the issue and the need for collective action.
Why sexual harassment?
During its first year and in order to help identify gap areas for research and work related to gender and sexuality in Lebanon, the KIP Project held 5 multi-stakeholder, multidisciplinary, multi-sector private roundtables around gender and sexuality on education, health and well-being, economic empowerment and opportunity, politics, and legal and civil rights. These discussions brought together members from the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society members, among other stakeholders.
Based on these roundtables, the themes of discrimination and sexual harassment were identified as overlapping areas where knowledge-production and dissemination should be focused within the Lebanese landscape. A campaign entitled “#NotYourAshta” was therefore launched by the KIP Project in November 2016 encouraging individuals to share their messages against sexual harassment. The KIP Project also organized a multidisciplinary conference on discrimination and sexual harassment on March 31 and April 1, 2017, during which stakeholders across sectors and disciplines presented their work around related issues. These activities, among others, were made possible through a grant from the US Department of State.