Street harassment in Egypt and Lara Logan

Image from CBS, taken moments before the Feb. 11 attack

Like many major cities around the world, there are high rates of gender-based street harassment against women in Cairo. A 2008 report by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women experienced it and 98 percent of foreign women.

During the weeks of protests against Hosni Mubarak’s regime, I observed conversations on twitter and among my Egyptian Facebook friends that public sexual harassment was pretty much gone. Everyone was banding together. A miracle? Was Egypt cured of this global problem? But then once Mubarak stepped down, I started seeing comments about sexual harassment again.

Most notably, tonight, I read about how a mob of men harassed and then sexually assaulted CBS journalist Lara Logan last Friday, as she went through the crowds with her team to do her job, report on what was happening. A group of women and soldiers rescued her and she flew back to the United States on Saturday. She was then hospitalized due to her injuries.

The amazing journalist Mona Eltaahawy is tracking what people are saying about the attack on Logan, including in the context of harassment in Egypt: http://twitter.com/monaeltahawy

At this point, many of us are waiting for more news about who the attackers may have been and I know there is great hope that they were outlier “thugs” and not members of the peaceful revolution. But, given that the number of Egyptian men who openly admit to harassing women (more than 60 percent) and the repeat occurrence of mass harassment and sexual attacks on women during Eid, it’s hard to say.

What we can say, is no matter who did it, sexual harassment and assault is terrible and should never occur. It not only negatively impacts the survivor but can also make all women who hear about it feel less safe as women in public places. Logan is brave for sharing what happened, especially given the victim-blaming directed at her (“what did she expect to happen” and comments about her looks), and I hope her attackers are brought to justice.

Update (2/16): Here are three articles about how ending gender-based violence needs to be the next revolution in Egypt! The first is by me, for Ms magazine and the other two are on CNN.com and The Daily Beast.

16 Responses to Street harassment in Egypt and Lara Logan

  1. Jen says:

    Horrible story. Some of the comments about this on news sites are disgusting – yes, perhaps it was a ‘dangerous situation’ for a woman to be in, but that’s not an excuse for the disgraceful and endemic culture of harassment that seems so prevalent in Egypt and which leads men to attack a woman in the presence of cameras and news crews! It doesn’t matter how many times I hear it – I never cease to be amazed and appalled by the attitude that women are somehow ‘asking for it’ – what century are we living in?

  2. JaMaL AhMaD says:

    First of all, I would like to express my anger of this problem , but we can’t blame men all the time. Generally when women dress decently, she will prevent 80 % of these situations. just dress decently …

  3. @Jen, agreed

    @JaMal You just made up that statistic! It’s not true.

    In countries like Egypt, Yemen and India where most women are very modestly dressed and often completely covered they STILL face sexual harassment. You can learn this in real studies conducted in those countries (http://www.stopstreetharassment.com/streetharassment/statistics.htm).

    The problem is the perpetrators and cultures that allow them to harass women and get away with it. The problem is NOT women or what they wear.

  4. JaMaL AhMaD says:

    Mr.Administrator, where do u live ????
    I’m one of this Arabic culture, I know my ppl better than anyone and I know that when a lady dresses in a decent way she will be away from any problems. Go and do this survey as u have a website, BUT do it in Arabic Countries, good luck

  5. @JaMal I am not a Mr. Yes, I live outside “the Arabic culture” but the studies I point to are not ones I conducted. They are ones that the people or governments of Egypt, Yemen and India conducted.

    For example, a 2008 report by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women experienced street harassment as did 98 percent of foreign women. More than 60 percent of Egyptian men openly admitted to harassing women. Women wearing hijabs and non-Western clothing were as likely as women wearing Western clothing to report it.

    Another example, a study by the government of Yemen found that over 90 percent of women in their capitol city faced harassment and there the vast majority of women are completely covered.

  6. RoseLove says:

    @Jamal that’s the reason why Arabic people who make up that disgusting statistic of men who THINK THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO HARASS WOMEN JUST BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY WEAR will never change: you blame your disgusting actions on your victims.

    Sheez, Jamal, women have equal rights as men, and in the same manner that we don’t grab men or spit on their faces when they wear tight shorts, no man also has any right to intrude in our bodies or molest us women just because men like you cannot control yourselves. HOW YOU ACT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. YOU HAVE FULL CONTROL OF YOUR HANDS AND YOUR BODILY REACTIONS. IF YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR HANDS FROM GRABBING A WOMAN JUST BECAUSE YOU SEE HER ANKLE OR EVEN HER BREASTS, YOU NEED TO BE CONFINED IN A MENTAL INSTITUTION. DON’T BLAME IT ON THE WOMEN.

  7. zoe says:

    RoseLov is right! Egyptian men are culturally “privileged” (not economically) and feel it’s their godgiven “right” to demean and harass and commit violent acts agains women.
    Their sense of overinflated arrogance, MISOGYNY (their socio-cultural background makes it worse than in Europe or America) is part of their daily life! Unless Egyptian women take themselves seriously and respect their daughters’ future by fighting back against those thugs, nothing will change. They should at least have a program in Cairo to casrate these neanderthal young thugs who did this to Lara Logan~ SHANE ON THESE EGYPTIAN SEXIST PIGS.

  8. memi says:

    We pray for the speedy recovery and strength for Lara Logan and wish that left or right ideologies play no part in condemning the male jackals at Tahrir Square who shamed their sex and country!

  9. Golden Silence says:

    I also hated how Jamal automatically assumed Holly was a man. Reminds me of the letters that got sent to my former employer that were addressed to “Dear Sir(s),” as if the concept of women working there was a foreign idea.

    The fact that Jamal doesn’t notice (or care) that even women in the most conservative attire still get harassed just shows that he’s not even close to being a male ally.

  10. JaMaL AhMaD says:

    as u r talking about RIGHTS, We men have the right to walk down the streets with feelings of a man walking down the street, not with the feelings of a man sitting in a prostitution house.
    Rose is saying that we need mental therapy, then what about women who are showing their bodies for free in the street, don’t they need a mental therapy??…what about conservative societies?? they still have that problem??? then coz of sick men, but dnt tell me that u want to put fire beside oil asking oil nt to burs in flames

  11. Golden Silence says:

    then what about women who are showing their bodies for free in the street

    Sigh…

    You keep missing the point or are deliberately ignoring the point. IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT A WOMAN’S WEARING!!!! DO YOU HEAR THE WORDS COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?!

  12. standup8 says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for awhile but this is my first time commenting. I just wanted to say that it might not be worth replying to Jamal. Everything he types just sets off my “troll alarm”.

  13. Jen says:

    Jamal is clearly not the sharpest pencil in the box, but maybe we should hope he’ll keep reading the blog with the chance that he might gradually realise what women have to put up with on a daily basis. I’m feeling more optimistic than usual today🙂

  14. @standup8 yes, he’s actually submitted several more comments since his original that i opted to stop posting b/c they said the same things just with more all caps.

  15. standup8 says:

    Thanks. Glad to know I wasn’t just imagining things. It can be really hard to tell sometimes.

  16. […] Sunday to tell what happened to her on February 11, 2011, in Cairo. I’ve written about the mass sexual assault she expeirenced at the hands of hundreds of men a few […]

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