Life within Dubai is in constant metamorphosis; it is shifting, moulding and architecting its existence. It is in its continuous accelerated nature that I find myself wrestling to get into the metro. At this point, I’m so determined to get into the metro that I end up entering an uncharted territory: the general cabin. The general cabin- which is seventy percent of the metro- is deceiving in its name, because it is inhabited with men while women encapsulate themselves into the two cabins reserved for them. The women’s cabin is far off away and so I’m left trapped and displaced around a populous of anonymous men. I see another woman at a distance, but she is shrinking in sight.
Bodies against bodies in this compact space: it is already suffocating. The distinct stinging smell of sweat also diffuses through the cabin, yet everyone’s face is numb and in complete ignorance of its existence. Bodies keep shuffling. I look out of the large metro windows and assume I’m six stops away from my destination. More bodies are now entering than exiting. There is a continuous movement, yet one of the men standing in front of me refuses to shift from his position even if the waves keep pushing. “That’s odd,” is all I can think of it until his hand brushes against me. Soon his ambitions are clear. Everything is momentarily slow and I, just like the women at a distance, begin shrinking; but maybe it’s an accident? It’s crowded, maybe it was a mistake? So I continue staring into oblivion, not acting upon my instincts to prevent myself from causing a scene. Then I feel another stroke on my body that continues its process of stripping away my innocence, yet I still convince myself of its unintended nature. I want to say something, but I’m paralyzed. I’ve lost my voice and my body is hostage to fear and self-doubt. Two more stops. One more stroke. Everyone’s face numb and in complete ignorance. One more stop. Two more strokes. I escape.
I rush straight to the bathroom in pursuit of some kind of relief. As I exit the bathroom, I see him standing at a virtuous distance. Am I still just being paranoid? I walk back up to the metro to wait for my friends. He follows. Another stroke. Who do I call? My parents? That in itself could be a mistake because in our communities we silence such things. The solution is never holding the harasser accountable, rather it’s imprisoning the women from the world. This is the dark naked truth; if a woman is harassed it’s always portrayed as her fault.
I managed to sprint my escape, but the truth is many women don’t. Over 250, 000 women (250,000 just being the recorded rate from 65 countries) are victims of rape every year. However, every time the response is the same: it was that women’s fault for being at the wrong place in the wrong time in the “wrong” clothes.
I guess I shouldn’t have been in the men’s cabin after all.