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Does Hijab Protect Women From Sexual Harassment?

This question is interesting to be discussed because what I see on social media seems to be that many people have doubts about hijab. What they know about hijab is that ”it is only a religious symbol for Muslim women”.

Whereas, in other religions, there are women who wear head coverings like hijab too. As a hijabi, I’ll try to bring the answer based on a hijabi’s point of view, which is based on the verses of the Qur’an, and the highlight here is that hijab is a relationship between creatures and their Creator and how it is applied in society, not just a religious symbol.

By looking at the reality of today’s society, I am quite sure that the most likely answer will be
no.” Personally, I got several stories about hijabis being harassed, and it happened in an environment I know.

The closest stories I got were from my female cousin, and another one was from a female student in my high school in the past. The harassment they experienced was not just cat-calling, but about being touched in their private parts.

They were just walking quietly, and they were not walking alone, but then the man driving by suddenly harassed them. The clothes they wore covered their bodies, and their hijabs were on.

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Those cases will easily lead society in general to an answer of “no,” or, in other words, will lead to the perception that “wearing hijab is a form of futility.

Then another assumption emerged, saying, “Women are beautiful creatures; they should not waste their beauty.” So, it will form the assumption that whether women wear hijab or not, they can still get harassed.

Therefore, it is better for them to take it off and show their beauty; they will get more appreciation from others because of their beauty. I think the beauty of women is not like the works of art where their beauty can be shown openly.

Does Hijab Protect Women From Sexual Harassment? - About Islam

The difference is that, the beauty of a work of art, no matter how it is judged, it will not change its essence. Meanwhile, for women, when they receive either praise or criticism for their beauty, it can possibly lead to changes in the essence of their beauty.

That’s because women have hearts, excessive praise and criticism can possibly cause damage to their hearts. Then, what other people considered beautiful before may not be beautiful anymore.

In Islam, it is taught that something beautiful should be protected. That is a point of view that hopefully society can understand.

The commandment to wear hijab is written in the Qur’an, one of which is in Surah Al-Ahzab verse 59.

“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves part of their outer garments. In this way it is more likely that they will be recognized ˹as virtuous˺ and not be harassed. And Allah is All-Forgiving.”

Surah Al-Ahzab verse 59.

Why Hijab?

The purpose of hijab is as a form of protection for women. In this case, by wearing a hijab and clothes that covered her body, it means she did what she could to protect herself.

However, if she still gets harassed, it means there is something wrong with the people in her environment. The focus regarding this issue is not only on hijab and the case but also on the perpetrator. It’s like we have to put a mark on them, like “there is something wrong in those people’s minds.”

It’s not that hijab cannot be a form of protection for women; it’s just that some people act across their boundaries. Wearing hijab is something under a woman’s control, while things outside of her control are things that are beyond her control.

Actually, Islam commands both men in Qur’an An-Nur 30 which says;

“Tell the believing men to reduce some of their vision and guard their private parts. That is better for them. Indeed, Allah is acquainted with what they do.”

Allah (SWT) also tells women in Qur’an An-Nur verse 31 which says;

“And tell the believing women to reduce some of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which necessarily appears thereof and to wrap a portion of their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons.

Both men and women are commanded, and they are supposed to understand their boundaries.
When a woman has protected herself, men must also be able to respect it, and of course, men do not cross their boundaries either.

For Muslim women, as written in the verses above, it is necessary to understand hijab as an obligation. Because obeying Allah’s commands is a form of devotion for a servant to her Lord. This piety will determine our position before Allah one day.

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