Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tackling sexual harassment in Egypt

Activists are launching a project to highlight incidents of sexual abuse and help transform attitudes to women in the process

Jack Shenker
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 21 September 2010

".... Those "few scatterbrained youths" must have been extremely busy. In the same year that the first lady took to the airwaves to accuse media outlets of "exaggerating" reports of sexual harassment, a Cairo-based NGO released the first major survey of women's experiences in this area; it concluded that 83% of Egyptian females and 98% of foreign females had been exposed to some form of sexual harassment in Egypt – almost half of them on a daily basis.....

One of the most interesting aspects of the project, though, is the question it raises: why is sexual harassment such a problem in Egypt? Anecdotal evidence suggests that 20 years ago this simply wasn't an issue on the same scale; when cases of harassment did occur, other people on the street would often step in to help. These days such assistance is rarely forthcoming.

Many different explanations have been put forward, with varying degrees of credibility. Some blame Islam's attitude to women, though harassment levels in Egypt seem to far outstrip those in other Muslim countries. Others point to sexual frustration, which is certainly a factor in a country where economic pressures are forcing many young people to wait longer and longer before they can afford to marry – but this doesn't account for pre-pubescent children and married men being among the harassment repeat offenders......"

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