Cab Driving and Sexual Harassment

Cab Driving Sexual HarassmentHow many times have we heard stories about cab drivers and their lack of ethics in Lebanon? They try to get more than a normal fee out of passengers to go from point A to point B. They surely overcharge foreigners. And, they engage in obscene conversations with guys and girls.

The typical Lebanese cab driver finds it very normal for him to ask a guy about his sex life. Well, this being the Lebanon it is, guys are supposed to be out there sexually while girls are tucked away safely in their parentsa�� houses. But, it is not really the guysa�� sex life they are interested in; they are more curious about the a�?situationa�? of girls in Lebanon. They want to know if they are a�?opena�?. They want to know if they let guys touch them, and weirdly enough they seem more curious about girls who havena��t even reached a legal age. With the questions I face, I dona��t know what to think of these men. Dona��t they have sisters? How about daughters? Assuming they have neither, would they accept someone speaking this way of their mother?

The questions are bearable compared to the comments they make when they see a woman. At least with questions one has a way to turn the conversation around and let the man look at things differently just a bit. But, with such comments what can one do? Smile and agree? Smile and shut up? Get off the cab and try finding another that hopefully doesna��t share the same views as this one? And then what? How can a young adult tell a man to watch where he is driving when he almost had an accident because he was drooling over a woman? How can a young adult tell a man the age of his father to stop goggling at the breasts of a woman who has a kid on her arm? How can a young adult make that man see that women are not objects he can yell sexual things to and wink at as they are peacefully walking down the street? Even if they were dressed to seduce, even if they did a�?looka�? like they are promiscuous, dona��t they have the simple right not to get harassed and have their personal space violated?

At one time I asked the cab driver if he had kids. He said he had two sons, and one of them was married. Women cana��t seem to escape being the subject of harassment, whether single, married or parent. Either way, respect is due. It is not due specially because they are women, it is so because they are human beings.

This kind of conversation happens between a�?mena�?. This does not happen if there are female passengers in the car, as if this were a club welcoming members only, members with male genetics. Worst yet, this is a culture where most men feel safe in, they see no wrong in the way they objectify women, and men who dona��t are attacked and accused of being either gay or impotent. This is the easy side of the passenger seat, when the passenger is a male. What happens when the passenger is a woman is a completely different story, to be told on a different occasion.

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  1. It is indeed a problem one never talks about, especially in mainstream media in Lebanon. Thank you for this post!

  2. I don’t have a negative experience with taxis in Lebanon, especially when i order one from a well known company. I suppose problems occur more with freelance taxi drivers…

  3. Nice! Never thought of it before. You opened my eyes on an important aspect of sexual harassment occurring in taxis… and in public transportation like buses.

  4. I have had a few harrassements in the past actually, a couple of van drivers and a lot of taxi drivers.
    One of them was asking if i were engaged or not, randomly, saying that I look pretty and educated (since he picked me up from my college)
    I said I am engaged and he actually replied saying “But i don’t see an engagement ring. why are you lying to me?”
    It was actually kind of rude and it embarrassed me. I understand the drivers are men and all but it’s not a way to impress a girl at all, especially that it intimidates me.
    There is also the transportation problem here in Lebanon that we don’t go into the public transport system due to a lot of issues, so at least this private sector needs to be working well and if I sue my own car i will be stuck in traffic and swearing all day long at this system.
    i don’t really know what to solution can be to this

  5. Yes, these problems occur with freelance taxi drivers. This forces women to stay away from public transportation and to go with private ones which could limit their movements (if they aren’t financially capable).

  6. Thank you Hermes for your article. I would say go ahead and talk to the guy. Better say something than nothing at all. A joke can always go to the point of things without a lot of fuss. I have used taxis and buses in Lebanon from 1994 to 1998. Although I have not encountered any sexual harassments, I have heard of some. I did follow some simple rules though. Always be polite and firm, wear clothes that are not revealing, avoid going in an empty cab. I prefered using buses just because there was more people, thus avoiding a one-on-one situation.

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