Men like to harass in Egypt

July 18, 2008

The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights has been involved in anti-street harassment activism work for several years, so the recent headline in Reuters “Two-thirds of Egyptian men harass women?” about the high levels of street harassment in Egypt is no surprise to me.

In a survey of more than 2,000 Egyptian men and women and 109 foreign women, “62 percent of Egyptian men reported perpetrating harassment, while 83 percent of Egyptian women reported having been sexually harassed. Nearly half of women said the abuse occurred daily.” I wonder where the people who took this survey live in Egypt – like is it worse in the cities the way it seems to be in the US? Regardless, those are high numbers but not really surprising.

I’d like to say the following facts were surprising but they’re not either. “53 percent of men blamed women for bringing on sexual harassment, saying they enjoyed it or were dressed in a way deemed indecent. Some women agreed.” Hey, they’re just like people in the US and the UK who blame women for getting harassed! Don’t believe it? Just find any story on street harassment that allows for comments and then you’ll very quickly realize how many people have that opinion. Riiight, it’s women’s fault men can’t keep their mouths closed and hands to themselves…

This part of the story is particularly interesting to me: “The vast majority of women did nothing when confronted with sexual harassment,” the survey said, adding that most Egyptian women believed the victim should “remain silent.” Is that because they are afraid of getting hurt or being assertive or what, I wonder? I wonder what people in the US would say about how the victim of street harassment should act. When one feels safe and confident enough to, I advocate saying something to them or reporting them to a person of authority or their company etc. I just don’t think that ignoring them deters them. How do you think they should act?