As a follow up to my July 4 post, Time.com just published a good article about how the Egyptian government is tackling sexual harassment (including street harassment) through religion by distributing new books on sexual harassment to 50,000 imams at mosques across Egypt.
“The solutions proposed in the booklet — which include a greater adherence to religious and family values to better law enforcement — don’t necessarily match the advice preached by women’s groups, who focus primarily on drafting formal legislation on the matter and promoting female empowerment. Nevertheless, the ministry’s decision to address the issue at all, and on such a scale, may indicate a marked shift from the government’s stance just last year: that sexual harassment is the problem of just a few individuals. ‘It’s a big change,’ says Rasha Hassan, the main researcher at the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR). ‘Of course the government still needs to do a lot. But nowadays we can see some change in the ministries.'” …
“There are calls for the government to draft a law specifically aimed at curbing sexual harassment, but even that may not be enough. ‘I think that any law against sexual harassment in the streets or in the workplace is a good step forward,’ says Nadya Khalife, a Middle East expert in the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. ‘However [it] still requires the government to effectively enforce the law by creating mechanisms to ensure that women do report sexual harassment incidents, and that these incidents are dealt with appropriately.’
Indeed, change may be slow to come, but in Egypt some activists are encouraged by the small signs of progress. ‘We can’t change the culture or the people in one day,’ says ECWR’s Hassan. ‘But we are trying to do a lot of things … We try to make changes with the government first, and then the people.’
It was just a year ago this month that the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights published it’s groundbreaking report about the extent that men harass women in Egypt and so to have the government trying to take the issue seriously now seems like great progress in that amount of time!