A widely shared video shows two women being threatened, insulted and inappropriately touched in the midst of a busy water park in Bahrain. The incident, which took place on August 3, has sparked debates about the need for a law banning sexual harassment.
The video, which lasts 10 seconds, was filmed in the Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park on August 3. It shows a group of about ten men harassing and assaulting two women in the middle of a busy pool. The men surround the two young women, comment on their swimsuits and touch them inappropriately by grabbing their bikinis. The two women try to defend themselves and escape from the aggressors, without success.
The video was shared tens of thousands of times on Twitter and Instagram, with most people calling for an investigation into the incident.
The park’s answer: “The two women […] put themselves in a dangerous situation”
After the scandal broke, the water park – which is popular with tourists – reacted by promising to assure the safety of visitors.
According to an article in the online newspaper “Gulf Daily News”, the water park is equipped with 160 surveillance cameras. There are also 65 employees responsible for park security. The newspaper says that park staff intervened to put an end to the incident.
However, the manager of the water park said in a statement that the incident “was not an act of sexual harassment”. He said:
Women in the water park are advised to avoid crowded swimming pools. The two women clearly chose to swim in a pool used by single men and, thus, put themselves in a dangerous situation.
The two women did not file a complaint. However, an investigation into the incident was launched in cooperation with the Minister of the Interior. After the investigation, the aggressors were given a warning.
At the time of publishing, The Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park had not responded to FRANCE 24’s request for an interview.
“If you get harassed in Bahrain, it is considered your fault”
S. Yousif Almuhafdah is an activist with the organisation Bahrain Human Rights. He said this video illustrates the rampant impunity enjoyed by men who engage in harassment.
It’s not the first time that something like this has happened. There have been many incidents like this in public spaces like hotels, restaurants and parks. Very often, the staff in these establishments pretend not to see what is going on. In this instance [in the waterpark], this incident was filmed and widely shared, which forced the water park to respond because it cares about its international reputation as it gets tourists from all over the Gulf.
However, you can see that the individuals in question had no qualms about carrying out this harassment in a public space, in front of guards. They act like this because they know that they won’t face any consequences. In Bahrain, men and women can mix in public spaces and there are no laws requiring women to cover their heads. But there is no law banning sexual harassment.
"Instead of prosecuting the aggressors, they decided to blame the victims”
According to our Observer, the criminal code doesn’t contain strict enough consequences for violence against women. There are no laws against sexual harassment or domestic violence. While a person who commits rape could be sentenced to life in prison in Bahrain, there is no punishment for marital rape.
Boys feel overly powerful. The authorities always rule in their favor because, instead of prosecuting the aggressors, they choose to blame the victims for getting into the water in a pool filled with men. Faced with this kind of mindset, victims never file complaints. And, even if they do, they would never get any follow-up. If you are harassed in Bahrain, it is considered your fault.
Article written by Kenza Safi-Eddine.