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Women’s experiences of sexual harassment in hospitals in Riyadh: an exploratory study

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posted on 2023-06-09, 07:18 authored by Hebah Rashed Alrashed
This study, the first of its kind, explores women’s experiences of sexual harassment in hospitals in Saudi Arabia. Mixed methods were employed: a questionnaire distributed in three public hospitals and completed by 262 women, and semi-structured interviews with 25 women. The study found that that incidents of sexual harassment in Saudi Arabian hospitals are strikingly common, although there are ambiguities around the definition of this term. Sexual harassment was disproportionately experienced by women working at the administration level, as their occupations required frequent interactions with men. Other important factors were age, education level, marital status, job grade, the gender of supervisors and patients, and gender ratios and hierarchies in the workplace, as well as times of working. Sexual harassment in all its forms had a devastating impact on women’s quality of life in both personal and professional terms, and contributed to widening the gap between men and women in the Saudi community. The interview data gave an insight into the cultural and institutional factors shaping sexual harassment and responses to it. These include the gender-segregated and male dominated nature of Saudi society and a culture of honour and shame which produces prevalent victim-blaming. Also significant were a lack of institutional policies which meant that the size and community of the hospital became extremely relevant as a preventative factor: in smaller hospitals sexual harassment was more difficult to conceal, whereas in larger institutions men were harassing with impunity. The findings of this study suggest there is a need for more research into this phenomenon and an attempt to develop better institutional policies and procedures.


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University of Sussex

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