Saturday, May 29, 2010


I try keeping most of my posts light and upbeat but there are some things about Egypt that simply can't be described in that manner. One of the most frustrating, disgusting, and awful things I've had to witness on a daily basis in Egypt is the sexual harassment of women.

First, some statistics. A 2008 report by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (full disclosure: I intern there) found that:
  • 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women have been harassed by men
  • 46% of Egyptian women and 52% of foreign women are harassed on a daily basis
  • 62% of Egyptian men have admitted to harassing women
  • 52% of Egyptian men believe that it is the woman's fault
  • The majority of women who are harassed are dressed modestly (i.e. veiled)
Transcending age, class, and religion, sexual harassers in Egypt are severe, constant, and pervasive. Harassment is manifested in words and actions that range from ogling and cat-calling to groping, public masturbation, and rape. Most of my female friends, both Egyptian and foreign, have experienced some sort of harassment. I've asked male Egyptians about it--some condemn it while others shrug and say, "We don't have jobs. All we can do is smoke and harass."

As for the cause, there is no easy answer. Egypt is a sexually-repressed, conservative, and impoverished country and the culture of harassment, for most, is simply an accepted fact of life. Only recently have there been public awareness campaigns to combat it as well as legal consequences for harassing.

As a result of all this, there is much distrust between men and women. For example, once in the evening, I was walking down a street and a white woman was walking towards me on the same side of the street. When she saw me, she immediately crossed the street. Another time, I was waiting for an elevator next to an Egyptian woman. When it came down, before I could get in, she ran in, slammed the door, and pressed the button for her floor. In both instances, I wasn't even making my creepy face.*

Egypt is definitely a man's country. Socially, legally, politically, economically, religiously, and any other "-ly" that you can think of, women come out as second-class citizens. I think the only case when the outcome is favorable for women is when they go clubbing. It's usually always free entry for them. Guys have to pay 50 LE. Taking everything into account, I'd say it's not too good of a deal.


1 comment:

  1. I love the feminist side of you. I actually came across an article on sexual harassment through "phone stalking" in Egypt earlier this year. It was very interesting and troubling of course.

    Here it is:

    I miss you and I can't wait for you to come home. <3