This article was submitted by Dina from Cairo My Love. You can see the original article here. Much of what she says I've experienced myself, but I think every woman will be able to relate.
Epidemic of Sexual Harassment in Egypt
That's exactly what it is. An epidemic. One that's been festering and spreading for years upon years, and only gets worse. I wonder if a cure will emerge some day for this sickening behaviour.
[Check out the numbers on the ECWR's web page]
I think the 17% of women who have reported not being harassed on the streets either live under a rock & never come out, or are too ashamed to admit to it, or maybe think that saying it never happened will make it true. Or perhaps they just don't want to worsen Egypt's reputation (yesawa2o som3et el balad aktar mahy menayela). Or maybe they blame themselves for it, just like society does, so they don't really consider it harassment.
98% of foreign women say they have been harassed in Egypt - but guess what? The funny part is, they probably get harassed LESS than Egyptian women do. Why? Because the guys who harass them are cowards. The touristic police actually cares about what the tourists think or else they won't come back to the country and spend some more money, so they handle their complaints seriously - unlike the normal police which just adds insult to injury. So they are afraid. I used to go to khan el khalili a lot, and I would see Egyptian women get harassed,myself included, but never a foreign woman. NEVER.
So if 98% of them have been harassed, my guess is ont hestreets elsewhere not at a touristic place, then how on earth have only 83% of the Egyptian women experienced this? Not that 83% is a small number... but I think the true honest to God number would be well above 90%.
Whatever their reasons may be to not admit this, I have never met an Egyptian woman that lives in Egypt that has not been harassed in one way or another. This harassment varies from woman to another, and location to another, but at the end of the day: we're all harassed. Be it a vile look, a pathetic comment, or an unwanted touch.
I've heard one guy countering this argument with that when he was in school the girls in the neighboring school harassed him as well. Well, I have one thing to say to that: Perhaps they were so sick of getting harassed, they're lashing back the only way they know how - giving men some of their own medicine. Or maybe they're just the bullies in their school, and they harass people... Schools do have bullies usually. Or perhaps they're trying to find out what the hell is so fun about harassing people on the streets. Or perhaps you are just delusional in the fact that you are comparing some 14 year old girls who harassed you in school (and you're the only man I've ever heard claim this) with the millions and millions of women who are verbally and physically assaulted on the streets on a daily basis, well into adulthood, to an extent that makes them hate their surroundings. So while you remember this strange offense against you from when you were 14, I lost count of such offenses when I was that same age. Those girls are no better than any other predator I speak of here, but please, do not insult our intelligence by a sorry attempt to render the matter frivolous.
There's this look in an Egyptian man's eyes that makes me want to poke his eyes out, mutilate his body parts, and then kill him. A psychotic, undressing, invasive and violating look. A look so disgusting that it makes me shiver in my own skin, and wish that the earth would just swallow me up to cover me from it. A look so filthy, that you can see the virtual assault on you in his sleazy eyes. I hate that look so much.
The worst part of it, is that people think it's the woman's fault. That is just sad. That's exactly the same thought path of psychotic rapists who think "she asked for it". It's sick, perverted, twisted, uncivilized, and just plain stupid. And this has nothing to do with religion, as a matter of fact. It's just a sick culture.
In Islam, a woman is supposed to dress modestly, cover her body, not wear tight or revealing clothes. BUT, and this is a very big BUT, a man is also supposed to not look at the women, to be polite in looking. Not be invasive. Yeghod el basar. Somehow society has forgotten about this latter part, or more like... chosen to ignore it, just as it has chosen to ignore many of women's' rights, and all they can do is blame the woman. Same old story, always blame the woman.
Then you find a woman walking in hijab, fully covered, nothing tight, nothing revealing.. and she still gets harassed. You find a 60 year old veiled woman that gets into a cab and gets harassed. You find a 12 year old girl being harassed. Even a women in niqab is not immune to such behavior. These are all things I've witnessed myself or heard of from people i know well, so they are nothing out of the ordinary, just the daily bullshit an Egyptian woman has to live with.
I used to hate walking in Egypt. I really did. I always dreaded going somewhere, and limited my walking to the very minimum. If I were to go out in public, I'd make damn sure i have a male friend with me, and with that I'd avoid the comments and physical harassment, but not the petrifying stares. I couldn't just go shopping in peace. Walk to the women's hairdresser a couple of blocks away, even cross the street i live on without dreading a harassment.
Now mind you, I am nothing spectacular. I'm no beauty queen, on the contrary, I'm on the lower side of that scale. And I wear a hijab. And I'm not physically provocative. But that doesn't matter. We're just pieces of meat walking around some hungry dogs.
So why don't women report harassment? Because the police are worse. Sometimes the harassment comes from THEM!! Who the hell does one report to when they are all filthy and corrupted, and would only lay the blame on the woman. And I'm not kidding when i say that during my lifetime i have indeed gotten harassed several times by the police themselves.
In Egypt, if a woman goes to a man's house and gets raped, she has no rights. Seriously. That is just sad. So if one day you go over to your friend's house for a nice dinner with a lot of other friends, and for your shitty luck something happens and you are there alone with someone sick, that's it. You are pretty much screwed. Not that women would report it anyway in Egypt, many of them just don't report it at all, because in Egypt a woman's reputation is everything. Something I despise to my very core. But you don't even have the option to, because "it's your own damn fault, you're a whore for going to a man's house".
Now, I'm not claiming all men in Egypt are bad. I know very honorable men who would never hurt a fly, let alone a woman. Men who are noble, who abide by their beliefs, respect women and endless other great qualities. But sadly, they are not the majority. They are rare pearls that I've had the honor & privilege of finding in my life. I wish Egypt could fill up on the likes of those men.
The cure? I don't know that there is one. But our biggest hope would be education, I suppose. And not the sort of education that is currently provided. Many an educated man in Egypt have the narrowest and most retarded of minds. Education of Rights. They should add a new course to all schooling systems from year 1. Perhaps if people understood one's right to be treated with respect, and freedom, some of the harassment would cease. But that's just the optimist in me. We are light years away from that.
So, that's all I have to say about this. Let the flame war begin.
1- This is how I personally feel about these issues. You are free to agree or disagree, and perhaps your life experiences show you otherwise - but please respect my right to an opinion of my own on the matter.
2- This article means no disrespect to Egypt, my home, and my love. This frustration and embitterment comes out of the love for Egypt and wanting it to be a better place for all people, women and men.