Hear from Egyptian Activists

BBC posted a new audio report today about the rise of activism in Egypt around the widespread problem of sexual harassment in public. A few weeks ago BBC reported on the increase in women taking self defense classes in Egypt to deal with their harassers. This audio clip includes interviews with some of those women.

There is an interview with one of the women at the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights about the survey they conducted last year. This woman said that too often Egyptian women are blamed for the harassment they receive because they were supposedly dressing provocatively, and that there’s a perception that if women didn’t dress in a certain way there wouldn’t be harassment. Well, in their survey (where 83 percent of women reported experiencing harassment and 2/3rds men said they engage in harassment), more than 70 percent of the women said they were wearing a veil when they were harassed. She said that was an important finding to show how pointless it is to blame victims for harassment crimes – women are harassed no matter what they wear!

Also interviewed in the clip were individuals involved in the “Respect yourself: Egypt still has real men” campaign in a Cairo neighborhood of Mohandiseen,  sponsored by Kelmetna, a magazine for young people. It targets Egyptian men and encourages Egyptian women to speak out, too. When members of the group asked men what they would do if they saw a woman being harassed by men, most reported that they would join in harassing her, especially if she was not dressed conservatively (!!).  A young man interviewed said he thinks that since people can’t marry until they’re older due to the economy, men are taking out their sexual frustration on women in the street, causing the rise is street harassment. The group holds rallies at universities and canvasses the streets, reminding taxi drivers and food vendors to uphold Egypt’s tradition of hospitality. On Facebook, the campaign has over 53,000 members.

I also found the following about the group:

“As part of the campaign, Kelmetna magazine hosts weekly seminars and discussions to raise awareness about the problem. It also offers self-defence classes for women so they can fight off harassers. In addition to seminars, the group members and volunteers, who are all aged between 14 and 24, take their work to the streets, talking to people about sexual harassment. One of their main goals when they approach people is to convince them to refrain from all types of sexual harassment as well as to speak out when they see it happening. The campaign also involves street concerts to raise awareness.”

Fantastic work!

(thanks to frequent reader Beckie for this story tip)

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