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.
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.