Covered from head to toe, groping continues

Women in Cairo. Image via the Boston Globe

I’m sick of hearing people blame women for street harassment by saying things like, “if only women covered up it wouldn’t happen.”

In many countries where women ARE completely covered, harassment occurs. 90 percent of women surveyed in 2009 in Yemen had been street harassed and most women wear a veil. Egyptian woman Hadeel al Shalchi wrote a great opinion piece for The National about the insane amount of street harassment in Egypt, and the following section discusses the issue of being covered and still being harassed:

“The onus in our society has largely lain on women to prevent sexual harassment. If a girl doesn’t cover her hair or wear very conservative clothing, then she’s obviously asking for it and wants the harassment, the prevailing attitude seemed to be.

As a result, more women began to cover up. The hijab and niqab became common in Egypt, not purely for religious reasons but also because women wanted to avoid the unpleasantness of being glared at by the opposite sex.

But when the harassment continued, Egyptian women knew there was something seriously wrong.

Covered from head to toe in black, they were still being groped, propositioned and annoyed. What more could they do?

Three years ago, an amateur video of women in hijabs being attacked in downtown Cairo during a holiday event was made public. Shocked Egyptians were brought face to face with the ugly nature of harassment. Some mobile-phone images showed men tugging at young girls’ clothes. Others showed the girls being physically attacked.

This was real evidence of a very real problem. Those who had ignored what every woman knew could deny it no longer.

Women’s groups were emboldened to launch anti-harassment campaigns, teaching women that the problem was not their fault and encouraging them to persist in bringing complaints – even small ones – to the police. They were also urged to take self-defence classes and to use what they were taught on men who abused them in the street. …

In Egypt, sexual harassment will, most probably, continue to exist for a long time to come. Attitudes that allow such behaviour appear culturally ingrained. But increasingly women are waking up to this reality and beginning to reject it.

Women here are saying it loudly: enough to being groped on the subway, to being undressed with a look, to being followed to work. This must stop!

Amen. Enough!! Street harassment MUST END and it will not end by requiring women to be completely hidden from view. Instead, men must stop harassing women and there must be cultural respect for women. What can you do? Here are a few ideas, feel free to share more in the comments.

4 Responses to Covered from head to toe, groping continues

  1. **BrownEyedBeauty** says:

    I completely agree with this. It seems like women will always be subjected to this nonsense.

    However, I do have to ask…is the first sentence of this article related to a post I left back in November? Because I didn’t place blame on anyone but the harassers. I’m sorry if it seemed that way. I simply pointed out the fact that we do live in a world that is hostile to women and despite the fact that we will be harassed no matter what, it is probably still better to cover up in certain situations.

    Some men perceive female sexuality as a threat. Some men view all women as “whores”. Some men hate women and want them to be afraid, intimidated, or hurt.

    I have walked down the streets of my hometown and through the halls of schools where I’ve been subjected to the most vile harassment no matter what I was wearing. Both males and females harassed me. Now that I’m older and have tried to downplay whatever “sexiness” I have, people are not as inclined to prey on me. But I still feel very unsafe. I was raped as a young girl and I grew up in a toxic environment where people constantly made advances or lewd comments. I’ve always been made to feel that my body is on display, even while covered up.

    It isn’t fair. I wish it would stop too. What happened to the poor ladies in the Cairo incident doesn’t surprise me, because it happens to women everywhere. We need to train young men, from the time they are little boys, to respect women. Cultural, social, societal and environmental influences are the root of objectification…and sexual harassment, which sometimes leads to violence against women.

  2. Daniel Johhanson says:

    It’s tragic if women are subjected to this humiliation. Are the men who do this living in caves? In Australia, Europe or the Americas if any man did this he’d have his hand broken by the woman, and he’d be in court charged with assault. He’d be humiliated on the front page of newspapers. In the Middle East, it seems men are still stupid animals. What have their fathers taught them?
    This is a sign of how backward a countries culture is. If men do this kind of rubbish, the country they live in is regarded as a joke….It’s pathetic.

  3. LittleMissMishi says:

    To be quite honest, I didn’t really realize how bad the situation in Egypt was. I’m about to go to school there and this article has really opened my eyes of what I really need to take caution and such.

    Though I know that not all men in Egypt are harrassers, I still think that if there is one man in a group of other men who are harrassing a woman on the street, it is his responsiblility of setting them straight. Even though he didn’t do anything or say anything to that women, if he doesn’t take action, does that really make him any better than those low-lifes?

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