Two high profile street harassment cases and the publication of a major report on street harassment issued by the Cairo-based Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights in 2008 may bring about positive change this year for ending the harassment of women.
According to Women’s E News, when Egypt’s new parliament meets this month, it’s anticipated that some members will propose a law to strengthen penalties against sexual offenders (including street harassers) by increasing jail time and fines and it will put more pressure on police to stop incidents and take the concerns of targets seriously.
“I am optimistic the new year will be better for women, especially with a new law expected to be passed.” – Nehad Abu Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights.
On the flip side, and not unlike elsewhere in the world, some people in Egypt are determined to disbelieve or downplay the high levels of street harassment. Notably, in November, women’s rights supporter first lady Suzanne Mubarak said on TV:
“Egyptian men always respect Egyptian women…This gives the impression that the streets in Egypt are not safe. That is not true . . . the media have exaggerated…Maybe one, two or even 10 incidents occurred. Egypt is home to 80 million people. We can’t talk of a phenomenon. Maybe a few scatterbrained youths are behind this crime.”
Right, a few scatterbrained youth are behind the frequent harassment of 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women in a 2,000 person sample…
But the good thing is that there is a dialogue occurring on this topic and people are becoming more aware that it’s a problem to the extent that parliament may introduce and pass an anti-harassment law. We’ll see what happens!