As discussed before, a survey conducted by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights last year found that 83 percent of Egyptian women had been street harassed and about 98 percent of foreign women reported this experience while in Egypt.
In a French newspaper The Observers, Julie Marquet, a French graduate student in history who has backpacked across dozens of European, Asian, and South American countries wrote about her experiences in Cairo. Here is an excerpt:
“I travelled to Egypt with a girlfriend of mine for two weeks in the summer of 2003. We were both 19. It’s my worst travel memory ever: Egypt is not a place you can travel to individually, especially not for two young girls!
Everywhere we went there was some hand groping us, in the street, in buses or trains… They weren’t even shy about it: they grabbed our butts, sometimes even went under our shirts! This happened even if we were careful to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, even when it was 40°C out! We were told by Franco-Egyptian friends that women weren’t supposed to be too exuberant in public, not to laugh, not to talk loudly, not be noticeable in any way. We tried to be as discreet and invisible as possible, but that didn’t change anything. If we lashed out angrily at them it didn’t help at all: they would just laugh and never took us seriously.”
Traveling has so many benefits, including the chance to expand one’s horizon and understanding of the human race and world, and it’s a shame women can’t have the same freedom of mobility to go to new places (or old/familiar places for that matter) as men.
Egypt is addressing the high rate of street harassment of female foreigners with a new ad, which The Observers included in their article. The video clip, “shows a typical scène of a vendor harassing a European visitor in a market. At the end, a man’s voice says: ‘If you harass visitors, you’re not the only one who loses. The whole country has to lose.'”
Hmmm. Don’t the women who are harassed lose too, if not significantly more than the men who do the harassing? Like Julie, they have lost the right to be in public without being harassed or fearing harassment even if they try to be invisible…