In the past few months, I've seen an increasing number of bloggers rallying against the rising rate of sexual harassment in Egypt. I have seen bloggers write astonishingly moving accounts of their experiences as well as others who've written about the subject in support of rape victims. But I have also seen Facebook groups dedicated to the case and ones that came up with more original ideas like t-shirts that display anti-rape slogans meant to discourage men from harassing women because they would not wish the same to happen to their mothers/sisters/wives etc.
I, wholeheartedly, support their efforts to end sexual harassment. However, I don't really think that change will happen soon enough, if at all. I believe we will see a whole lot more victims along with crimes of sharper intensity and greater frequency. In my humble opinion the problem is one of many layers. On the surface it would seem that sexual predators prey on women because they are sexually frustrated as with the Maadi case of sexual assaults. In reality however, sexual offenses are rarely about sex and more about power and dominance.
I think it's fair to say that sexual offenses have a variety of underlying causes with some of the more common ones being arousal, anger, dominance, and abuse. There are sexual offenders who are sexually aroused by violent acts against women. And among those are cognitively challenged men who have a distorted sense of values. They believe women like to be raped or that women think of sexual harassment as a compliment. This is the kind of thinking that often leads to date rape. On the other hand there exists people like the Maadi rapist who is a repeat offender. He often has difficulty establishing or maintaining relationships, particularly with women. He is introverted and likely has a variety of problems, both social and physical. But I think the most common type of sexual offender in Egypt is the one motivated by anger. His acts of sexual harassment are essentially emotional outbursts accompanied by a serious lack of self control. Usually, this is the most dangerous and violent sexual offender. This is the type of rapist that will randomly pull a woman into a vehicle in broad daylight to cop a feel at her breasts or genitals. He is the same guy that employs the most vulgar and colourful linguistic abilities, and the same one who falls under the influence of the mob mentality as in the infamous case of the Eid sexual harassment incidents. He is the guy who is not fearful of the consequences and is aware that the law and public perception works in his favour.
In a region where the majority of the public is under dictatorial regimes and zero accountability, tolerance for sexual offenses as well as other crimes will be much higher than the norm. The average Egyptian man is abused every hour of every day by the political system in Egypt, which affects everything from the price of a gallon of milk to the ability to vote free and clear of oppression. The Egyptian public is politically, economically, and socially challenged. The politics of the few run the country and keep the majority in check. The standard of living is extremely low. The costs of bare essentials are skyrocketing while wages remain in the minimum. Without financial assistance, the average Egyptian man cannot build or maintain a family. He has no control over his future and finds very little value in attempting to make something of himself. Men deal with those issues differently. Some of them in productive ways; others use it to fuel their anger, and lash out.
I really don't think a statement on a t-shirt, or a Facebook group, is going to be very effective, especially against that type of sexual offender. It doesn't make much sense to compare the victim of a sexual crime to the offender's mother/sister/daughter/wife because a sexual offender does not see this the same way the average person does. In the eyes of a sexual offender, all women are targets, with the exception of his various female family members. He doesn't see them as women, rather he defines them by their role. In addition, gender bias bonds are incredibly stronger than familial bonds. Victims of sexual crimes are often shunned by their male family members. Many are told that it is "their fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time" or "that they brought it on themselves by wearing inappropriate attire".
A deeper more seeded cause of sexual harassment is the fact that forgiveness is readily available from God. Regardless of what our denomination is, we are taught at a young age that when people make mistakes, all is forgiven if we repent. I have personally met many men of that mindset. They believe it is fine to sexually assault a women if it means that in the end they will repent and everything will be forgiven. Because God does not dole out punishment now, so they see this as an opportunity to binge on crime before the deadline so to speak. The only thing that will deter that kind of behaviour is a very strict and properly applied law. Unlike God, the judicial process has no room for forgiveness; criminals can repent all they want in prison. Sadly, in Egypt, although there is a law (insufficient although it may seem) that punishes sexual offenders, that law is often not enforced. Police officers and other authority figures take complaints lightly and quite often aggressively discourage women from coming forward and proceeding with a complaint.
And finally, the root of the problem is a very simple fact, and that is in the Middle East women are perceived as second class citizens. Arab men in general, tend to believe that they are superior to women, whatever way they justify it, be it religious, social, or what have you. And I am not generalizing either. I realize that there are very decent men still living in Egypt. They think in a different way. They believe in equal rights and everything but there are very very few of them. Regrettably, the majority of Arab men fall in the other category.
It is in that light that I encourage women not to be victims. A Facebook group is a nice sentiment, and a t-shirt certainly would not hurt. But I believe that the best way to avoid rape is by arming oneself and learning to incapacitate a sexual offender. Survival is key, even if it means killing the assailant or permanently maiming him.
Like I said before, desperate times call for desperate measures.