The issue of harassment has long been considered a taboo in Jordan with little public narrative or debate. This hindered initiatives and serious efforts in policy research and data-gathering, always perpetuating the view that harassment is not a priority policy issue to Jordan and making identifying patterns and obtaining reliable in depth data on the phenomena a strenuous job.
When it comes to laws governing harassment cases, the Jordanian Penal Code lumps various acts of harassment in few articles as “committing a scandalous act’ and ‘rape and violation of honor’. In its procedures, the Jordanian Legal System does not cater for, or punish, all types of harassment; it does not even include or define the word. Each case of harassment (even if verbal on the streets for example) is dealt with, in regard of procedures, as if it is an incident of sexual abuse or rape. Thus, if the incident was not conveyed in a way that fits the description of the charges mentioned above, the perpetrator eventually walks free. This deters survivors from reporting and pursuing legal aid. The ambiguity of how the articles in the Penal Code could be used on a specific case deters survivors from reporting incidents and makes legal information hard to openly share with the public.
The result is a culture of fear surrounding survivors and preventing the vast majority of them from reporting and sharing information about their experiences; further limiting public access to real figures and insights. As widespread as the acts of harassment are, the community of survivors had never found a space to form and advocate, nor share their stories; adding to the view that harassment is not a pressing policy issue.
The complexity of the issue called for a new form of community engagement that utilizes technology and what it has to offer. It demanded new, alternative, safe and transparent spaces that help in identifying patterns, crowdsourcing data, and shaping public opinion to advocate for survivors’ rights.
Data Gathering and Crowdsourcing: As the first of its kind in Jordan, “7arkashat” online interactive map and adjacent website were developed to crowdsource input on harassment incidents, allowing for open and direct citizen engagement. Individuals can report incidents of harassment and add as many descriptors as possible for that particular case (description of the harasser, harassed, time of incident, etc). The more incidents reported in a particular location, the more that location appears as a heat spot on the map indicating the urgency for intervention. The website also creates instant data visualization of certain correlations between statistics and displays them in charts, demonstrating the dimensions of the phenomenon. This introduces the map as a pressure and accountability tool. Crowdsourcing helps users make smarter and safer choices by identifying places that are particularly unsafe versus those that are relatively safer.
Anonymous Reporting and Empowering Survivors:Reporting on the map happens anonymously, with the reporter choosing to provide an alias. This logic was built in the reporting process to counter the fear and lack of trust experienced by survivors. The process further-empowers survivors by allowing them to submit evidence through a video or a picture. Survivors are also offered a special section in which they can share their stories and experiences anonymously. For public transparency purposes, reports are tagged “verified” or “unverified” by the site admin based on the ability to verify information included in the report.
Legal Awareness: To address the ambiguity in laws and legal definitions, a dedicated section on the website offers information and resources important to survivors including a simplification of the Penal Code articles concerning acts of harassment.
The website and the map adopt a design thinking process that is geared towards shaping an informed community and providing much-needed data for advocacy efforts.
Ushahidi, WordPress, Data Visualization Wodpress Plugin.