The Law May Have Changed, But Sexual Harassment Is Still A Daily Reality For Women In Algeria


By Kenza Salmi

“To them, women are pieces of meat; they are not valuable beings”, my neighbor Aisha told me once. Aisha is a gorgeous educated 30 year-old woman, who experiences harassment within our society. The moment she steps outside her house men begin to harass her, by staring at her, or inappropriately approaching her for dates, and then reacting angrily when they get denied.

A lot of harassment is verbal: name calling, labeling, shaming, bullying. Even whistling is a form of harassment Aisha would face when walking through the streets. What saddens Aisha the most is that she did not ask for this. She wears what could be described as modest clothing. She tries her best to not attract any attention to herself but she still receives unnecessary attention; so it seems that it’s neither women’s clothes nor their ages are behind sexual harassment in our Algeria.

Algerian women are suffering in silence for not having the adequate freedoms needed to live a comfortable life because of some who have made it difficult for women. Many women think twice before going out shopping, contemplating for hours whether they will be embarrassed inside public transportation. Other women who reach their destinations may even face sexual harassment there. Moreover, many will never forget the atrocious acts of their bosses. As sexual harassment has become a phenomenon in our society, it has caused the stress and misery for millions of women.

Harassment is defined as the “systematic or continued unwanted and annoying actions by one party or group of people, also including the acts of threats and demands”. While sexual harassment is “the unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” In 1996 the Algerian government signed the “Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against women” (CEDAW) an international agreement meant to end all violence against women in society.


The Algerian Government did not effectively make a law defining sexual harassment until the year 2015, and earlier this year the law finally defined sexual harassment and violence against women as a crime.

On the 8th of November 2015, Razika Charif, a 30 year-old female, was murdered by a man who would drive around my city, Magra, harassing women. When he made contact with Razika, she ended up spiting at him because she did not accept his filthy conduct. But the person became upset and used his car to kill her, running over her body as if it was nothing. Will this be the outcome of what happens to women who stand up for themselves? What if this was your grandmother or mother being harassed? What about sisters and wives?

In Algerian society, there are a number of women who are afraid of their fathers, brothers or husbands. Additionally, they are even afraid of the opinions of others. So naturally, the only solution is to remain silent. As a result, most women who are being harassed usually do not tell their families about it because they fear being blamed for what happened to them. They fear being told they were responsible for being lenient or permissive with those abusive bosses or the men they’ve met in the streets.

It is not uncommon for families to decide it is safer for the women and girls to stay at home instead of working or studying out in public. Unfortunately, they don’t care about the potential and ability these women possess. Furthermore, they believe that family issues must NOT be discussed in courts, in front of strangers. Abusers consider this as an excuse or a green light to do whatever they want without being punished.


The majority of Algerians complain about having no equality among them. This is compounded by the fact that the government is slow to exact progressive laws. Most of women who file lawsuits do not win their cases, and with nothing happening to their harassers, many of them risking being publicly black listed. As more people learn about the trial, they become associated with impurity (because of her being harassed) and public opinion will ostracize and stigmatize her.

Let us imagine that a woman has been harassed, so she decided to stop being scared and went on to tell the police what happened. How can she prove that? It is so difficult to provide evidence which makes it much easier for the perpetrator to get away with the harassment.

I’ve became surprised watching reports on sexual harassment, where Algerians are asked about the reasons why women get harassed. One interviewed honestly answered, “When a girl is putting on glaring clothes, I would stare at her, comment and harass her… Yeah, I will do!” I was embarrassed to know that we still have men in our society who have forgotten what Allah orders in Quran, “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze” El-Nour 30.

But these men don’t think these acts will happen to their female relatives; forgetting that “we reap what we sow”. Let’s suppose those men who say “the way the girl dresses” is what causes them to act in such a way is correct and that women’s attire is the main contribution that leads to sexual harassment. Why was Razika Charif killed while she had been wearing the hijab? They are simply making arguments for their sickening emotional and sexual drives.


“Let’s get out of this bus, now!” my friend shouted while crying. My friend and I were on a bus going shopping. “He touched me!”, she told me when I asked her what had happened. Even with a panicked and frantic state, crying in front of people inside the bus, no-one said a word, and no one cared. This story is one of millions incidents happening on Algerian buses today.

Sexual harassment is continued from generation to generation because young children grow up learning to mimic those behaviors. While my friend Naoual and I were walking down the street one day, we met a group of children, no older than twelve years old. We didn’t take much notice and continued along our way, but what shocked us is how one of them touched Naoual’s hand. I can’t deny that she insulted him loudly, but, again, no-one cared.

Sexual harassment takes place in formal settings as well, within public administrations, educational and medical institutions and universities. Many employers and bosses put pressure on women who are in a dire need of work, those who need to feed their children, their poor families or for any other reason.

My cousin once told me about a colleague of hers, Nadia, a 35 year-old married woman who was harassed by a man at her work. Nadia faced a hard time while working; in an educational institution. Still, she could do nothing concerning this because she was afraid of her husband. Eventually, she announced her resignation. “I don’t have another solution”, she admitted to my cousin.


Some studies from 2009 have shown that verbal harassment represents 70% of the conduct used in workplaces. The point not to be overlooked is all of these conducts lower a woman’s self-confidence and leads to many other problems like anxiety, depression, nervous breakdowns and other life altering effects. Most importantly, according to the specialists in sociology, sexual harassers’ age is between the ages of 40 to 60 years old. They have found that the victims’ age frequently ranges between 18 and 35 years old.

Even around the Algerian educational institutions; female student suffer from sexual harassment. My colleague told me her story of what she experienced four years ago with the headmaster of a French department within a university, who asked her to show him some parts of her body in order for her not to repeat the year. Many more female students are facing similar encounters as well.

According to the Independent Algerian Psychological Studies, (2014), 80% of Algerian women have experienced sexual harassment. Sexual harassment has become a canal from which CO2 spreads all over the country; replacing the natural air of O2. It is not normal to have to live in fear of everyday tasks such as walking down the street or going to work.

Sexual harassment is making our society a dreadful and intolerable place to live in. Even if the Algerian government is trying really hard to get rid of such a horrible phenomenon, it seems that those solutions alone are not able to solve the problem. It will change a revolution in men’s attitudes toward women, and this can only happen when gender equality is the norm.


Kenza Salmi, 22 years-old female, is a would-be teacher, currently a student at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Algeria. As a student, she is an active blogger with many online outlets. She is a fervent advocate for Algerian women rights and is exploring ways to give them voice.

Leave a Reply