Category Archives: Sexual Harrasment in Egypt

Horror in the Streets

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By: Alexandra Kinias —-

Reading about the sexual harassment incidents that women are confronting in Egypt on a daily basis evokes flashes of memories of a time where I, too, was a victim of this abhorrent crime. Sexual harassment was an epidemic that had spread across the country like uncontrollable wild forest fires. And as far back as my memory recalls, it was an endless endeavor that every woman in Egypt was subjected to on daily basis as they traveled the unsafe and unguarded streets, infested with male rabid species that are bred to attack. These male species are only comparable to stray dogs that are roaming the streets, driven by their sexual desires. Unfortunately it has even worsen in the last two decades.

Reminiscing over the past is a double edged sword. Together with the great memories and nostalgia to a life that had once been, it is also like Pandora’s Box, where it is safer to keep the lid on to store painful memories away. With all the greatness of my childhood, it wasn’t a pleasant experience to be a woman walking in the streets of Egypt. From a young age I experienced sexual harassment and assault. However, you grow up accepting that the misfortunes that one encounters are part of the culture. It was not until I lived in other cultures that I learned that there was something terribly wrong with the picture back home. I have to admit that the situation now has degenerated to worse levels than what my generation had encountered.

Mideast Egypt Sexual Harassment

(AP Photo/ Mohammed Abu Zeid)

Some provide social justifications to the repugnant behavior of the sexual harassers that are often attributed to sexual deprivation that these men are experiencing, due to the high cost of marriage and their meager financial resources. A statement easily refuted as most of these men are married and a vast number of them are in their teens. And with this justification, would one should also accept that thieves should be acquitted since their thefts were committed for financial needs.

Other justifications include their straying away from the religion and losing their spiritual connection with God, and, of course, my favorite reason is women. Women are always to blame since it has been agreed that they are the core for all evil and the reason for all sins. And in the case of the sexual harassment, it is also their fault for wearing immodest attires that tempt men and arouse their sexual desires. These absurd justifications are merely to divert attention from the real problem. Women who reported sexual harassment varied from unveiled to wearing the niqab, which is the full body veil that covers the face as well. Even this full body armor didn’t protect them from being groped and assaulted.

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Sexual harassment and assault are global diseases and not just a unique trait exclusive of the Egyptian society. Horror stories about women’s abduction, rape and assault are reported in countries around the world. No woman is immune. What is staggering though is that while it is infesting the Egyptian society, there is absolute neglect and passiveness in dealing with it. It is more plausible to admit that the streets have been unguarded by the police forces for too long which has left the country as lawless as the Wild West. Loud voices are concealing the dangerous role played by religious fundamental channels and radical Islamists. They have been injecting their venom against women into the minds of men, without any intervention or regulation from the government to curb their influence, thus, resulting in the creation of a generation of misogynists. Moreover, the moral corruption and social degeneration of these men should be considered as a major factor.

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Photo by: Tarek Alfaramawy

When a pack of young boys no older than 12 years old surround a group of girls like hyenas, pulling the veil off their heads, groping their bodies and touching their private parts, that refutes the validity of the allegations about sexual deprivation. For these boys, it is just a game, or a source of entertainment. With no appropriate punishment for their actions, there are no reasons for them to stop.

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The meager measures that are taken to defeat this crime are grossly inadequate when compared to its escalating magnitude and high frequency. Worst yet, the inaction from the by-standers who are witnessing these crimes, without speaking out or assisting the women in distress is alarming and disturbing. Their silence culminates with the passiveness of the whole society against these criminals. It is not unusual to throw the blame rather than facing the real reasons. There is no magic wand or vaccine that could cure this disease. Only when the real causes are addressed and strong and effective measures are taken to deal with it, there would be hope for safer streets for the women to walk on.

(Photographic images in this article are owned by their respective copyright owner. Where possible the appropriate accreditation is given. Due to image alterations ownership of many images can not be verified. Where ownership is known a credit is as given.)

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Lara Logan, I feel for you

Lara Logan reporting from Cairo

By: Alexandra Kinias

As the crowds in Tahrir Square jubilated the news of Hosny Mubarak’s stepping down, ending his thirty years of dictatorship in Egypt, CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan was surrounded by a frenzy mob, separated from her film crew and sexually assaulted and brutally beaten. As much as I was disgusted to hear the news of Logan’s attack, I was not surprised, but rather deeply saddened.  What Logan had witnessed was not a random incident, but in fact a living nightmare every Egyptian woman suffers from.  The tragic attack on Logan which is unequivocally denounced brought international attention to a problem that had previously been contained within the Egyptian borders.

The pandemic of sexual harassment in Egypt is absolutely ignored by the officials and lawmakers. Laws were never enforced to secure the lives of women walking in the concrete jungles of the Egyptian streets. The disgraceful behavior of men roaming the streets won Egypt the highest rank in countries where women are subjected to these heinous crimes. According to a survey conducted by The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR), 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women are subjected to sexual harassment, 62% of Egyptian men admitted to harassing women and this should not come as a surprise that 53% of men blame women for ‘bringing it on’. ECWR has repeatedly requested the assistance of the government to curb this cancer that is growing in the society, but to no avail.

Sexual harassment became culturally embedded within the Egyptian society. It even has its seasons where herds of young men flood the streets at certain times of the year, usually during the celebration of national holidays. They take part in groping and assaulting women under the watchful eyes of the policemen, who on multiple occasions have been accused of assaulting women who took part in rallies against the corrupt government of Mubarak.

While tightly holding its people by an iron grip, Mubarak’s government ruled over them by fear while creating chaos and division. Women and minorities became the main targets. In such atmosphere, extremist religious groups were allowed to spread their venom against women and created lies that women assaulted were at fault for their promiscuous behavior or attire. The surveys conducted by ECRW disproved such allegations.  Women’s dress code was never a decisive factor in their assault. Both veiled and unveiled women were victims to sexual harassment. Before the surge of these religious clouds that have been chocking the society for the last thirty years, incidents of sexual harassment were not as common as they are today where religion became a dominating factor in the lives of most Egyptians.

Under the reign of the Mubarak’s regime, Egypt became a lawless country where the police forces operated only to assure the safety of the dictator and his regime. In such gloomy environment, women’s rights, safety and other issues were not of core importance to the regime.

The phenomenon indeed requires social scientists, psychologists and psychiatrist to study this male species. On one hand these men request a virgin to marry and can go out and kill their sisters or cousins to restore the family honor, but at the same time have no remorse to harass women as a source of entertainment.

Under the reign of the fallen regime, the demands from women’s rights groups for the intervention by officials and lawmakers to step in and end this crime, fell on deaf ears.The irony is that not only women were shamed into silence for carrying the burden of their assaults on their shoulders, but their voices for salvation was also challenged by, Susan Mubarak. Living in her crystal castle the first lady who never set foot in the streets for the past thirty years, announced in an interview with the guardian newspaper that the amount sexual harassment is blown out of proportion. She also accused the media of exaggerating the threat posed by sexual harassment, and raised concerns about tarnishing the country’s image. That doesn’t come as a surprise from someone who belonged to such an ailing and corrupt  regime that was ousted by its people.

Mrs. Mubarak, by exposing these reports nobody was trying to tarnish the image of Egypt, neither the people of Egypt nor its women who were groped in daylight and exposed to profanity in the streets that your regime didn’t care to secure.  Tarnishing the image of Egypt and its reputation is the sole responsibility of your government that failed miserably, among many other things, to acknowledge the problem, address it and take viable measures to protect its women.

In Tahrir Square, Lara Logan was rescued by a group of women and soldiers. My sincere apologies to Ms. Logan who was there simply to get her job done.

To all the women of the New Egypt, wish you all a brighter future and safer streets where you can walk in dignity and pride. This disgusting phenomenon will certainly be eradicated once your predators are caught, punished and locked away.

Lara Logan, I hope to see you reporting from these same streets soon and to announce to the world that yes Egypt became once again a safe haven for its women.

 

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Women Around the World: A Year In Review.

By: Alexandra Kinias

Even though it has been a very tough year for women in many countries around the world, there are still no indications, however, that this past year was any different than the previous ones. Women’s rights were as violated as ever, they were bullied, oppressed, controlled and punished under the banner of their culture, traditions, tribal laws and religious scripts that encourage violence, abuse and even persecution.  The quest for material about women’s issues on-line took me on an emotional journey around the globe.  The expedition was filled with an abundance of painful stories about the disgraceful status of women, but yet there were also a slight glimpse of hope, a dim light at the end of the tunnel.

While the year was marked by the UN achievement of setting up a single agency dedicated to promote the rights of women and girls around the world, enormous violations to women rights were extensively covered in the news.

For Egyptian women it was a bleak year that started with a major setback when the  State Council for Administrative Judges voted overwhelmingly against admitting female judges.

By year end, ECWR published that Egypt ranked 125th of 134 countries regarding women’s rights. 83% of Egyptian women are subjected to sexual harassment. Women walking the streets in Egypt are subjected to indecent exposure, sexual invites, groping, comments, stalking or following and catcalling. While private NGOs are taking the initiative to battle this pandemic, the rights of women to safely walk the street is completely ignored by the lawmakers and enforcers.  The problem will unlikely be resolved in the near future. It became a farce how the first lady of Egypt Suzan Mubarak, maintains a state of denial. In an interview she was quoted that Egyptian men fundamentally respect women and that harassment incidents may have been blown out of proportion. It is quite obvious that the first lady neither walks the streets nor uses public transportation.

And while still the Egyptian women are denied the right to travel without their spouse’s consent, their counterparts in Kuwait celebrated with jubilation the parliament’s decision that repealed the ban on women traveling alone. Kuwaiti women are now allowed to travel without husband’s consent.  Not only that, but Kuwaiti women were allowed to join the police forces.

Just across the border from Kuwait, women of Saudi Arabia received a mixed basket. While the effort to revoke the ban on allowing women to drive in the kingdom was ignored by the religious authorities, the U.N. chief appointed Thoraya Obaid of Saudi Arabia to head the UNFPA (United Nation Population Fund), the agency that promotes family planning, sexual health and women’s equality. Her selection came after the extensive campaign, by her government behind the scenes, for her appointment. Quite an achievement for Saudi women  in a country where the rate of domestic violence is increasing, women are denied jobs as cashiers in markets, not to have direct encounter with men,  woman still need written permission from male relatives to travel, are banned from mingling with men and must be covered in public from head to toe.

Across the border to the East is U.A.E., the world’s emerging pearl that is dazzling the world with its wealth,  architecture and religious tolerance. On October 2010, a court in the Emirates ruled that it is okay for a man to beat his wife and daughters to discipline them as long as the beatings don’t leave bruises on their body. Earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, an eighteen years old girl who reported that she was raped was charged with illegal sex.

Afghanistan as always had its lion’s share in demonstrating violence and abuse against women. The image of Afghani woman Bibi Aisha with her nose-less face horrified the world when published on the cover of Time magazine. Her gruesome story of how her husband cut of her nose and ears off to punish her once again brought to mind the atrocities that occurred to women under the rule of the Taliban. Bibi’s story had a happy ending when a women’s NGO flew her to America and she underwent a reconstruction surgery for her nose and ears.

Image of Bibi before and after the surgery

Unfortunately, not all Afghani women were as lucky as Bibi.  Gruesome stories dominated the news of Afghani women burning themselves to death as a way of escape, since there is no other way for them to change their lives. Burning women in Afghanistan can be self inflicted or as a way of punishment by their husbands and their mother in-laws.  The Taliban also executed the pregnant woman Sanam Bibi who was accused of adultery  after being whipped 200 times.  A fatwa by Afghani religious clerics that became a law gave men the right to starve their wives if they refused to have sex with them. The Taliban encyclopedia of medieval practices has also included stoning to death as a means of punishment. An incident of stoning to death a woman and a man for allegedly having an affair was also reported.

Stoning to death is a punishment not only practiced in Afghanistan, but also in Iran, Nigeria and Somalia. Sekhina Muhammadi’s story dominated the news after foreign governments intervened and people around the world rallied for her release from her Iranian jail. The woman who was accused of committing adultery and murdering her husband had been sentenced to death in Iran after forced confession. When her news was smuggled out of Iran on her lawyer’s blog, the young man fled the country and sought asylum elsewhere in fear from the regime. There is a lot of conflicting news circulating about the fate of the woman.

Nojood Ali’s international fame came after she published her book “I am Nojood. Aged 10 and Divorced”. The 10 years old girl, who won the title of the youngest divorcee in Yemen, attracted the world’s attention after her story shed light on the dreadful practice of child marriages in Yemen and elsewhere.

Every day, approximately 25,000 girls become child brides. It is estimated that one in seven girls in the developing world is married before she turns 15. Being forced to marry so young, increases a girl’s chance that she will become pregnant before she is physically and psychologically ready. Problems associated with pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide. While Noojod was lucky she survived this marriage, not all child brides were as lucky. An eight years old girl was denied a divorce in Saudi Arabia, while another Yemeni child died of bleeding after being raped by her husband. As such practices are embedded in the culture and traditions and encouraged by religious clerics in these societies, it will be hard to eradicate them, unless there is a global intervention to save the lives and future of these innocent girls.

In 2010, more women were killed in the name of honor. Brutal flogging was used as a means of punishment  and women’s promiscuous behaviors were blamed for natural  disasters.

Last but not least, the year witnessed the occurrence of a new phenomenon. After being a male’s trait ever since its emergence, 2010 introduced four female suicide bombers.  Two women were from Dagestan, the former Soviet republic, one from Pakistan and one from Afghanistan. It is quite intriguing that women under the  most oppressive regimes are brainwashed to carry out their dirty work, a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Happy New Year to all the women around the world.  Don’t despair. We will do better next year —


 

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