Sexual harassment as a form of control of public places

May 23, 2020

Qendresa Hyseni, Prishtina, May 2020

Being a girl and a woman will inevitably force you to face the phenomenon of sexual harassment. From the early stages of puberty you begin to face some irritating, derogatory, insulting and denigrating voices that are directed at you, violating your integrity and denying you the basic right to feel free and safe in public spaces, your right that belonged to you since birth and that unfortunately the prevailing social norms try not to allow you to learn that it exists, your right for which people have historically fought for and continue to fight even today.

You’re suffocated living in a society that has a patriarchal mentality. You break because of the innumerable obstacles that hinder your journey, these obstacles based on oppressive, discriminatory, sexist, racist, homophobic and exclusionary principles that are constantly reproduced by patriarchy, visible and invisible. During the various phases of life, you notice how a social category is unjustly elevated to the highest pedestal, you notice how the power and authority that this category enjoys is creating rigid hierarchical divisions between genders and races, and not just those. You understand how this power produces knowledge and consequently legitimizes injustice generation after generation.

You are sexually harassed on the street, at school, at university, at work and in any other place that is claimed to belong to men only. You are teased by boys and men who claim it’s “by nature” to tease and their cognitive capacities despite intellectual upliftment, are not put into function to accept a different truth. Despite the fact that sexual harassment has become part of our daily lives and often as a momentary solution, it is ignored, this in no way legitimizes the harassment nor does it deprive the harasser from the responsibility and the burden of guilt. Among other things, critical thinking about this phenomenon has enabled us to get out of the closed orbit, which, without our will, has been nurtured within us by society, for years. Stripped of these deeply patriarchal and traditional beliefs, we realize that our bodies, our clothing, and our behavior are by no means factors that affect the harassment we experience in almost every place and every day.

You are harassed and you find an uncomfortable and threatening environment created around you, but in Kosovo they create such mechanisms that make it impossible to go after the perpetrators legally and punish them for this criminal act. These attempts don’t come from a complete lack of law, but from some people who haven’t managed to get out of the box that society has put them in, and then democratic institutions have turned them into patriarchal institutions. We encounter institutionalized patriarchy in many public and private institutions, even in those institutions established on principles of enlightenment and social emancipation. Despite the principles on which these educational institutions are set up, it is not excluded that, among other things, sexual harassment occurs on university campuses, even by people who enjoy power, authority and prestige due to their high leadership positions and academic titles. It is attempted to make it impossible for you to confess that university facilities are not comfortable and safe for you because the legal draft on sexual harassment within the University is not approved, on the contrary it is attempted to continue the tradition of suppressing the bitter experiences of harassment we experience in university facilities. The reason for the abuse of power and discriminatory policies, as students, make it difficult to address the harassment that has been done to you during the years of your study. It makes it hard because of the threats related to destroying your future. It makes it difficult to freely confess how you feel threatened every time you go to a consultation and the professor closes the cabinet door, or whenever during the discussion with x the professor you feel uncomfortable because of the expression of unbridled sexual fantasies made between the lines regarding your body, because of jokes, provocative questions, offensive epithets, etc.

Despite the constant tendency to deny this phenomenon within university campuses, this phenomenon is present and even quite widespread. The manifestation of the unequal relations of professor-student power will no longer have such a strong influence that the voice of many students talking about this phenomenon is not heard. The empathy that students have had for each other over the years, has turned into sisterhood where they will unanimously continue to send forward very meaningful and principled causes about the mechanisms that fight this phenomenon.

The influence of power will be overshadowed by the unparalleled willingness of students and civil society to work toward punishing sexual harassers on campus, and beyond.

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