Men like to harass in Egypt

The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights has been involved in anti-street harassment activism work for several years, so the recent headline in Reuters “Two-thirds of Egyptian men harass women?” about the high levels of street harassment in Egypt is no surprise to me.

In a survey of more than 2,000 Egyptian men and women and 109 foreign women, “62 percent of Egyptian men reported perpetrating harassment, while 83 percent of Egyptian women reported having been sexually harassed. Nearly half of women said the abuse occurred daily.” I wonder where the people who took this survey live in Egypt – like is it worse in the cities the way it seems to be in the US? Regardless, those are high numbers but not really surprising.

I’d like to say the following facts were surprising but they’re not either. “53 percent of men blamed women for bringing on sexual harassment, saying they enjoyed it or were dressed in a way deemed indecent. Some women agreed.” Hey, they’re just like people in the US and the UK who blame women for getting harassed! Don’t believe it? Just find any story on street harassment that allows for comments and then you’ll very quickly realize how many people have that opinion. Riiight, it’s women’s fault men can’t keep their mouths closed and hands to themselves…

This part of the story is particularly interesting to me: “The vast majority of women did nothing when confronted with sexual harassment,” the survey said, adding that most Egyptian women believed the victim should “remain silent.” Is that because they are afraid of getting hurt or being assertive or what, I wonder? I wonder what people in the US would say about how the victim of street harassment should act. When one feels safe and confident enough to, I advocate saying something to them or reporting them to a person of authority or their company etc. I just don’t think that ignoring them deters them. How do you think they should act?

5 Responses to Men like to harass in Egypt

  1. Jennifer says:

    I am a CDN 30something woman that visited Egypt back in March ’08 – I obviously did not do enough research on the harassment issue because it totally took me off guard. I resolved to the belief that this was their culture and I was a visitor, period. It is wonderful to see that there is a movement in Egypt and it is clear it faces an uphill climb.

  2. msdiver says:

    Hi,

    Wow…I just spent 7 weeks in Egypt, and I loved the men. I will admit that in Luxor, the marriage proposals became draining after a while, but everywhere else, I was not bothered! Of course, I dressed conservatively. Women who go to Egypt and dress away from the beach as if they are on the beach can’t complain. Egyptian culture is not western culture. If a woman doesn’t get that, it’s her problem. Egypt is the safest place I have ever traveled to, and I found the men gentle and kind. “As we sow, so shall we reap” applies here.

  3. Alek Novy says:

    I agree with you. Its very important not to stay silent.

    In fact speaking back is very important. Staying silent is the same as saying “its not that bad”

    And… (this is a very important distinction I think):

    It’s important to speak back in a firm, decisive, confident, matter-of-factly way. (Hey, I do not find that polite, and I would appreciate it if you don’t do that. Thank you).

    Unfortunately what happens most of the time, since women are taught to repress dissent and not speak up… They tend to bottle it up until it gets really bad, and then respond emotionally like (leave me the F alone) or flip them the finger.

    For harassers this is very easy to rationalize out. “Oh, she’s just being emotional”. Especially since most women stay silent altogether.

    So I think its very important to speak up… immediately.

  4. Robert Taylor says:

    I am 52 years old and my wife is 45 years old. Ever since I was about 11. It had been my ambition to see the Pyramids. We were married in April this year and flew to Sham el Sheikh for our honeymoon for two weeks.

    Let me tell you I will never ever go to Egypt again and I am presently advising every one I meet to never set foot in the country.

    Why you may well ask
    I had been warned to expect some pestering due to my wife having blonde hair and blue eyes, but she is 45 years old.

    We arrived at out hotel (a beautiful hotel) in the evening and went to the bar for a drink; the young Egyptian guy who served us would not take his eyes off my wife and continued to stare longingly at her without giving me a single glance. We retired early. The next evening when we went out for a walk he even whistled at her while she was on my arm. At this point I warned him off. I thought at first this would be a single occurrence

    Every shop we passed men came out and told her she was a princess and beautiful lady and asked us to come into their shops and tried to hold her hand, even when we walked on the other side of the dual carriage way they came across the roads to accost us. Not just the occasional shop. Every shop Every time we went out.

    We wanted so much to walk through the old market at Sharm and experience the atmosphere and to look at the different items for sale. We could not as every couple of yards shop keepers were telling her she was a beautiful lady (I think she is beautiful but she is not teenage model) and trying to get us to go into shops. Every shop Every time.
    One of the English men we met told us that he had seen two market store owners pay policeman money. I found out later that the police can shut down a shop or stall if the trader harasses the tourists too much
    Eventually we went back to the hotel as it was so very uncomfortable for both us and so tiring to keep saying no thank, no thank you, no thank you, and having to hold my wife’s hand so tightly
    At the cash machine a policeman offered our fiends that he could exchange their money at a better rate than the machine.
    We met four young English girls in their twenties and they explained that they had stopped going out at all because of the way Egyptian men were harassing them. One day we had trouble crossing the road and a police man asked us if he could help. He stopped the traffic for us to cross we thanked him and then he asked us for money. We paid him. I later took a picture of a police man on his camel at the Pyramids he also asked me to pay him.
    This made me feel that the police I had seen were corrupt and even they stared longingly at and made comments about the girls we were with and my wife.

    It made me feel that if spoke out of turn I would be arrested and Lord knows what would happen to my wife in their hands, in the back of my mind I felt she may even be subjected to a strip search or worse. It made me feel physically sick. That I could not protect my wife and that no respect was shown to us as a married couple. No respect shown to me as a husband I felt that it made no difference what so ever that we were actually holding hands when comments were made such as you lucky man and you have a Princess she is like Shakira
    We too stopped going out at night

    My wife I and argued because I wanted her to cover up and not wear the summer clothes we had saved for, in case if she showed too much of her legs or shoulders and that it would attract more unwanted attention. Again I repeat she is a 45 year old woman not a teenage model and dresses smartly not like a prostitute (this how she was made to feel)

    Every English person we met say they shared the same experiences, plus nearly every Egyptian we met was friendly at the start and then seemed to find a way to ask us for money.

    I have never felt so inadequate and sick to the stomach in my whole life, the fact that all the Egyptian men were staring at and making comments about woman tourists and not even making eye contact with the man she was with.

    A life long dreamed turned into a nightmare and we could not wait to catch the plane home.

    Since coming home, I have found that all friends of mine that have been to Sharm, report the same issues and one man actually chased off Egyptian men taking photos of his wife and teen age girls in their swim wear.

    I feel that this is an unsafe country for young girls travelling alone and not a country to take your wife or girl friend.

    I have written to the Egyptian Embassy on three occasions about this nightmare and they have chosen not to reply each time

    I wonder if other readers have had the same experience in Arab countries.
    May be if we start to boycott these cheap package holidays to Sharm, then perhaps the locals will pay us some respect.

  5. This is an excellent blog. Keep up the great work.

    Robert Taylor, I’m so sorry that you were made to feel inadequate by this behaviour. It is the men who behaved like this towards your wife and you who are inadequate. You are the real man because you have respect for women and expect others to do the same.

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