In societies which consider women less than a human, more of an object due to gender reasons, sexual harassment prevails, regardless of the dress codes such women wear, as the Time-Cairo based journalist Roger Anis declared that “he himself was exposed to harassment at Tahrir Square, despite being disguised as a woman wearing “niqab” on one of his inquisitive missions in 2012, stating that” it’s not just about clothing; it’s the idea that there is no freedom for women in general”.
The magnitude of the sexual harassment epidemic surges at feasts which are, ironically, Islamic feasts such as Eid El Fitr and Eid Al Adha, in the second class the societal celebrations, and on the top of the list “Sham nseem”.
Sexual harassment has been rampant in protests that Egypt witnessed, particularly in Tahrir square after 11 February 2011 and till 3 July 2013.
And according to a 2013 report by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment and 96.5 percent have been subjected to sexual assault.
Lately, the authorities confirmed that this phenomenon dropped in the latest celebrations of Eid Alfitr, due to the heavy presence for security forces in streets, noting that most of the independent initiatives fighting sexual harassment vanished this time, in contrary to all feasts since 25th Jan revolution.
So we have the official reports issued by Interior ministry and the National council for women, without any documentation or monitoring from independent groups, and even if the rates dropped during the last Eid, this wouldn’t mean that Sexual Harassment declines, and wouldn’t guarantee that the relationship between sexual assault and Feasts will fail.
The relationship will last because “WE DON’T CONSIDER IT A CRIME”
An eternal phrase mentioned by “Taha Hussein” in his film “doaa’ Karawan” or “the nightingale’s prayer” on behalf of the female protagonist that “People always blame the prey but never the predator”.
In his article, Roger Anis in Time Magazine, attributed harassment in Egypt, to a myriad of reasons further complicating the problem, such as poverty, the low standard of education in the country and religious restrictions which deeply divide both sexes; all such reasons always make people consider the harasser as a victim of his society, rather than blaming him for the lack of his ability to control himself and respect women; another fact which has to be tackled when we come to address the ethical foundations of manhood, which has nothing to do with sexuality.
Generally, Egyptians are not forgiving toward crimes, with the exception of sexual harassment. In these cases, they consider the perpetrator “a misguided kid.”
Egyptians’ tolerance for sexual harassment stems from their broader views of women. We say that women comprise half of society; they are our sisters, daughters, wives, while the truth is we rarely show real respect for women. The people who called on the young woman to forgive the man harassing her didn’t really think harassment was a crime, and just see a man grabs a woman’s body as if she is not a human, whose feelings had been insulted and dignity had been violated.
The Cinema Industry and the Security under Attack?
Recent literature on the topic in the journal articles, state that sexual harassment scaled recently, from 2009 onwards, due to the deteriorating industry of the cinema and the absence of any societal values presented through media which are dominated by businessmen with a consumptive rather than a principled background.
After the 25th of Jan revolution, the giant cinema production deteriorated, but The “Sobbky” Film production revived.
Moreover, a wide range of sobbki movies are displayed during Feasts, and accordingly, Shoft Tshroush – I Saw Harassment initiative reported that that the guys after watching these movies inside, got turned on, and tried to imitate what they watched on the screen that objectifies women, by violating their bodies
Another reason which made sexual harassment, blast recently in feasts, is due to the absence of the police officers from streets since 28 January 2011, commonly known as the day of the dissolution/absence of the police structure.
The Authorities Solution.. Stay at your homes during feasts? (Seriously?!)
It is stated publicly in the 3 public national newspapers during feasts, by authorities of Internal Affairs, that women should be cautious during festive and should avoid “public places in Downtown especially, cinemas and shopping malls”.
Really?! Protecting women by asking them to stay safe at their homes? What a call of home-imprisonment and a stifling of women freedom of mobility as their basic right and humanistic entitlement? Is such a call addressed to men as well, or women only? Then, the government itself is caught acting a discriminatory action against women.
Actually, such calls are nominally passive and time moves forwards not backwards.
The great thinker Thomas Hobbes was a strong believer that humans have an inherent tendency towards evil rather than good, and for that reason in particular, the societal inhabitants have to be protected by a coercive security body for the overall mass protection. Perhaps this is the best response to the vague urges of the newspapers.
However, we are grateful to the Egyptian civil society organizations and societal movements, such as; Shoft Tahroush, Harass. Map, Basma, and Tahrir Bodyguards, which took practical active initiations to protect our women.
And what needs to be Done?
Positive approaches were undertaken on the authority level such as the decree issued in 2014, stating that the harasser is to be fined 50,000 pounds and is prone to imprisonment for a duration of 6 months to 5 years, alongside the spread of the female police officers during high festive seasons and the creation of the hotline to report any harassment cases.
However, further measurements have to be undertaken to challenge this epidemic, such as legalizing the work of the earlier mentioned movements, which proved that they are successful at protecting women. Such initiations have to be legally helped and recognized by the Egyptian legislation.
In addition to using CCTV or surveillance cameras during the high season times, and at mass groupings which can help decrease the rate of harassment because it will facilitate the process of catching the harasser red-handed, if not deter him from that action for being monitored. The counter-argument to this suggestion is this mechanism will add extra costs to the Egyptian budget deficit, but the answer is protecting women has to be a national mission; make no mistake about that.
A Researcher and Writer at Wlaha Wogoh Okhra