Friday, October 23, 2009

Egypt's harassment disease

From street assaults to abusive phone calls, women in Egypt are plagued by sexual harassment. It's time to act against it

Nesrine Malik, Friday 23 October 2009

"....Even Suzanne Mubarak, the first lady of Egypt, maintains this line of denial, stating that Egyptian men fundamentally respect women and that harassment incidents may have been blown out of proportion by Islamic elements furthering their own agenda. This is where the issue truly becomes cancerous. When the state is more concerned with face-saving and point-scoring, the apathy filters down through all areas of law enforcement. Harsher penalties are hardly going to be dispensed when there is a denial that the problem exists in the first place. There have been some efforts to criminalise harassment and an Egyptian female student has launched an awareness-raising pamphlet distribution programme, but with little official support.

Perhaps the answer is to first dispense with all the excuses and justifications. Men take such liberties when conditions encourage them and the authorities are so indifferent that harassment becomes part of everyday life. However, as with most oppressive governments in the Arab world with weak civil societies, in Egypt any criticism of the status quo is seen as striking at the heart of the establishment. The best approach is to tackle the problem at its roots – on the streets, in the media and in people's homes."

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