Seen from Algeria: a woman wearing a dress, is that provocation?

I have really enjoyed reading this week’s column by Abdou Semmar, journalist at Algérie-Focus, and relayed in France by Courrier International. I think it raises an interesting point of view.

A new law just passed in Algeria, that will help criminalising domestic violences against women – but it is harshly criticised by conservatives as intruding on the intimacy of couples and contrary to Islamic values.

Abdou Semmar raised his voice against this conservative attitude.

I will try to translate this column into English.

I am an Algerian man like many others in our country. But I am a man who refuses to claim a woman is guilty when she goes out revealing her beauty or her femininity.

Yes, I say it today, even if some people won’t like it, I am not shocked, not upset, not frightened, when a woman wearing jeans or a skirt walks by in the streets of my country. I am not horrified at all when a woman, young or adult, wears a skirt that may seem, very or a little, short.

I am not terrified when a woman wears a dress that draws my attention. No, I am not embarrassed when a woman catches my eye because she is cute, pretty or charming. I don’t feel like a monster when a woman catches my eye because her outfit enhances her beauty.

A desire or an impulse

I enjoy women’s beauty because I enjoy life. Women’s beauty, to me, is a promise of happiness. And I want to be happy. I don’t feel guilty when I come across a pretty woman. I don’t have nightmares and I don’t make a fuss if a woman arouses in me a desire or an impulse. And yet, I am as Algerian as these members of parliament who want to impose a law penalising women accused of being dressed in a “provocative” way.

Where is there a provocation, when a woman wears a dress, a skirt or jeans? Enjoying, respecting, desiring, appreciating the beauty we are facing has nothing to do with the so-called immoral behaviour feared by these Algerians startled by a few women they judge “too naked”.

Morals are not a sartorial affair

Licentiousness, vice, depravity, immorality are not a matter of clothes. Nor of appearances. How many women with scarves are actually prostitutes? How many times have we found thieves or teasers under a niqab? There is no correlation between how light the clothes are and how light the morals are. Moral is a matter of education, not of appearances or fashion. The quest for beauty in no way leads to debauchery.

This lie obscures the clarity of thought of many amongst my compatriots. And I am an Algerian man and I don’t understand why a man should necessarily be excited as soon as he can see a tiny part of a feminine body. Yes, I am an Algerian man, very Algerian even, and I don’t accuse a woman of having excited me. I am an Algerian man and I am perfectly able to control myself, to cope with my instincts without having to rape or harass her. I don’t need a law to protect myself from my impulses. I am mature enough to legislate about my own sexual life.

And I sincerely believe that our well-paid MPs need to protect me from other plagues, way more serious, that are devastating my country.

Virginity tests

I am an Algerian man and I don’t understand why in my country a woman is forced to undergo virginity tests every time she wants to file a complaint to the police. I am an Algerian man and I think it is absolutely absurd that a woman, because she stayed out late, ends up in a police station and, later, in a hospital for a virginity test, as it occurred to this Algerian mother of two, so obviously not a virgin, who was tested at the Bainem hospital, in Algiers, at the request of the police. The latter wanted to know the state of her hymen whereas she had just been physically assaulted by a man. She did not complain for a sexual aggression, but a physical one.

But in my country, the complaining woman is necessarily a bit guilty. So we must check her hymen, the only thing that can tell us the truth. But, I am an Algerian man, and I sincerely mean it: a woman cannot be guilty of having excited me…

Published in Algérie-Focus, 8th March 2015.
Apologies for the approximate translation,
as English is not my mother tongue!
But I hope you enjoyed reading this column.
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2 thoughts on “Seen from Algeria: a woman wearing a dress, is that provocation?

  1. That was a deep look into culture. It is a shame how women are treated around the world. It is good to hear that there are some changing hearts out there.

    Like

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