Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rising harassment in Egypt

I read an article in Al-Masri al-Yawm today that discusses the increased incidents of harassment during the Egyptian Revolution. In the article it documents incidents of alleged harassment, ranging from inappropriate touching, to cat calls, to indecent exposure. Let it be said, that I do not think 'cat calls' should count as harassment, as if that's the case imagine what percentage of men in the West have harassed women. 

The indecent exposure and groping however, is just sad. People taking advantage of a situation that they should not be able to take advantage of. 

For women living in Cairo, or Egypt in general, the Web site mentioned below is one to bookmark. It frequently posts updates from women throughout the city on harassment, including taxi drivers who have inappropriately approached women, etc. 

In addition, ladies out on the streets take your safety into consideration at ALL times. A few simple rules can help reduce your chances of experiencing harassment on the streets. These include: 

  1. Do not make eye contact with men in the streets. This is seen (particularly when it's coming from a Western woman) as an invitation by many men here. 
  2. Pepper spray is not found in Egypt. However it is easy to make. All you need is 2 tbsp of hot red pepper or habanera pepper, 1 cup of vinegar OR rubbing alcohol, and a drop of Baby oil. Mix together all three (the pepper must be ground into a fine powder), and empty into a spray bottle. When sprayed into an attacker's eyes, the spray will temporarily blind him giving you the opportunity to get away. 
  3. Carry your keys in your fist, with the jagged edges pointing out between your fingers. This way, if anyone tries to approach you, one swift hit with your fist will hurt them immensely, if not cut their face. 
  4. No matter what the cat calls, do NOT engage these men. Doing so will only aggravate them further, and may end up putting you in a potentially dangerous situation. 
  5. Always walk with your purse facing away from the road. This will help protect you from purse snatching and/or groping in an attempt to snatch your bag. 
  6. NEVER ride in the front of taxis. I have heard far too many stories of taxi drivers copping a feel from an unsuspecting girl who sat in the front seat. 
  7. If you are inappropriate touched, report it to the police. Although many people believe that the police will do nothing, one of the reasons that sexual harassment in Egypt goes unpunished is because women will not report it. In Middle Eastern cultures, rape and sexual harassment is generally seen as being brought on by the woman herself. As such, the shame women feel often prevents them from ever pursuing any justice. If you do not want to report it to the police, at least post on the website HarassMap.org
  8. Remember that you are in a Muslim country. Dress appropriately. This means no cleavage, no daisy duke shorts, no skimpy outfits, etc. Dress the part, and you'll find your experiences in Egypt are much less stressful. 

These few simple tips can make a world of difference in avoiding harassment in the streets in Cairo. Even here in Hurghada harassment is up, despite the return of tourists to the town. Men here are simply capable of getting away with more, and accordingly push the boundaries further. Remember that you have the power to help prevent harassment. 

And without further ado, here is the article from Al-Masri al-Yawm. 

Photographed by other

Statistics gathered by an organization dedicated to decreasing sexual harassment in Egypt showed an increase in harassment during the revolution.

Egypt experienced a weak security presence during the 25 January revolution, which has since gradually reversed.

HarassMap is an organization and website created by female activists to shed light on dangers of harassment. The website, HarassMap.org, compiles complaints from women and girls via SMS or the internet, creating an online map of harassment cases.

The map showed Cairo had the biggest number of cases, followed by Alexandria and Upper Egypt.

In downtown Cairo, Maadi and along the corniche, the map compiled 39 incidents of harassment by touching.

Other cases included 20 cat calls, 22 incidents of ogling and nine cases of indecent exposure, in addition to other incidents.