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Egyptian women: “It’s time for our voices to be heard”

An Egyptian man walks past anti-sexual harassment graffiti. One of the tags states “Be a man and protect her.”

“I can no longer walk – or even drive – anywhere without receiving a dirty comment or without feeling scared that I may be attacked at any moment.”  Those were the comments of one female university graduate on life as a woman in Egypt.

“It’s disgusting and makes me feel like I am walking around naked!” said another female who happens to be veiled. “The abuse impacts all women of Cairo. Whether you are wearing the hijab, the niqab, or whether you are not veiled…women are harassed no matter what!”

This is the sexual terrorism that women across Egypt go through each day. Statistics released reveal that more than 90% of Egypt’s women – regardless of the neighborhood they live in – have encountered sexual harassment: grand-mothers, mothers, daughters – no one is off limits.

While driving in the relatively ‘upscale’ Heliopolis, I noticed a bunch of youth who had stopped their car and started verbally abusing a woman – in her 20s – who simply turned her face away and hurried quickly to a nearby store.

The attitude towards women in society has deteriorated over the past few decades – with sexual harassment getting worse post-revolution. Over the past few weeks, sexual harassment has marred protests at both Tahrir Square an at the Presidential Palace – with reports of women being surrounded by groups of men who then proceed to rip off their clothes and brutally violate their bodies.

An anti-sexual harassment group, Op Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault that was created to protect females from protest zones, shared the following testimonial of a female who was attacked on the 25th of January 2013:

All I remember is hands all over my body, grabbing under the layers of pullovers I was wearing, touching my breasts, opening my bra. More hands on my back and legs, my pants being pulled down. I was trying not to lose balance and not to lose my purse with my phone inside. My empty hand tried to pull my pants back up when I felt fingers inside my ass and shortly after in my vagina. I dropped my purse and pulled up my pants again, or I tried at least. Then more penetration with fingers from the front and the back. I tried to see the end of circle of men, but saw rows and rows of men surrounding me, all pushing towards me. I panicked, and was pushed aside. I remembered my purse, reached to the ground, picked it up and fell on the ground. With one hand I was hanging onto the purse; with the other I tried to pull myself up. Men’s hands were still on my body and somebody penetrated my vagina again with his hands. I had successfully got up. At that point I remember sounds again and I remember me beginning to shout for help. One man, a few meters away recognized the situation and moved towards me in the middle of maybe forty men, maybe more. He shouted and hit some of the men around me in order to reach me. When I could reach his hand, I simply handed him my purse and grabbed his arm. Then I just hugged the stranger and told him to help me. From behind, my pants were still be pulled down, hands everywhere.

Disgustingly, certain officials, radicals, and sexual predators have blamed women on such attacks. Today, the Interior Minister’s Undersecretary blamed women’s attire and lack of modesty. This is similar to what one man interviewed by the BBC stated: “It’s the way girls dress that makes guys come on to them. The girls came wanting it – even women in niqab.”

Yet, after many years of silence women are finally standing up for their rights – calling for equality and above all, justice.

Egyptian women protesting during a recent anti-sexual harassment protest.

During the Anti-Morsi protests in December 2012, more women than men converged outside the Presidential Palace to call for the rejection of a constitution that would lead to unequal rights for women. One woman, who held a sign stating “The voice of women IS the revolution” said that women are no longer afraid of expressing their frustrations with the lack of equality in society.

Today, global protests are set to take place outside Egyptian embassies, calling for an end to sexual harassment in Egypt. The protests – which are starting at the same time (5pm local time) as one in Cairo – aim to shed light on the abuse of Egyptian women and to pressure both the government and the international community to do more.

Egyptian women are risking their safety by marching on Egypt’s streets and demanding to be noticed. Despite the risks and potential of being attacked, one female protester told me “I will be protesting because I want to be treated like a human being.  The goal of these harassers is to scare us – but we will not be silenced anymore.”

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113 Comments on Egyptian women: “It’s time for our voices to be heard”

  1. Many Egyptian women are abused and mistreated by their husbands.. If you don’t obey them they will beat you or threaten to beat you. Shame on all Egyptian Men. Egyptian women are a lot more intelligent than the men. The Egyptian women should be running the country.

    Like this

  2. mustardgrass // March 5, 2013 at 11:05 pm // Reply

    I think this is a problem that all women around the world face, and it all comes out more aggressive in environments where there is a lack of security and of course EQUALITY.

    http://lesbaronnes.com/

    Like this

  3. I visited Egypt in 2005 and found nothing to object to (as a tourist at least). When I read this account now, I feel nothing but revulsion and disgusted.

    The solution to harassment is not in covering up women – there’s no end to it, considering the bloody perverts are lusting after babies, (you must have read the fatwa by the Saudi cleric that calls for a baby veil). The answer is to punish the perpertrators to make an example out of them. In fact, known offendors should be chemically castrated!

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  4. These Egyptian women are so brave and powerful to stand up and fight to overcome the horrendous things they endure. I can’t help feeling useless at this side of the world..what can we do from here to support the women of Egypt? This is a battle they shouldn’t have to fight alone.

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    • Thank you for feeling the need to do something, regardless of the distance.
      The best thing I would recommend is just trying to raise awareness – whether it be through writing, campaigning, or just supporting those (in Egypt) who are actively trying to change the situation.

      Today, when a child is starving or when women are being abused, politicians remain silent. Making the abuse of women – not just in Egypt – an issue at the top of their agenda is how change can best be achieved. It is what the women of Egypt are currently trying to do. I am sure your active support of their cause would mean a lot to the millions of abused Egyptian women.

      Like this

  5. My heart aches for Egyptian women. Keep posting.

    Like this

  6. Reblogged this on Blog My Life Away and commented:
    It is shocking to hear that stories like this are real, women aren’t viewed as equal in all parts of the world.. even in 2013.

    Like this

  7. spooky2012lib // February 19, 2013 at 3:51 am // Reply

    The situation is horrible for women, particularly when most Egyptian men wouldn’t see any need for change. Jumpers won’t prevent sexual abuse; leotards or lycra bike shorts would be harder to penetrate. These men are raping women and brutalising their own society

    Like this

  8. marycheshier // February 16, 2013 at 8:58 pm // Reply

    Reblogged this on How 2 Be Green and commented:
    Great article!

    Like this

  9. Reblogged this on AraBelle!.

    Like this

  10. william wallace // February 15, 2013 at 7:18 pm // Reply

    Be it boyfriend or brother or husband or father or grandad
    if the female is not respected by the male /then she should
    take appropriate action giving offender an sound spanking
    the offended being bent over a chair or table /thus the then
    female with the aid of cane or belt should give the offender
    the needed strokes as nessessery across (bared buttocks)
    of course one should keep in mind the aim is in teaching a
    lesson / not that of committing acts of brutality / thus let the
    strokes be measured /that they do not draw blood or cause
    severe bruising /thus be measured when giving punishment.

    It may be with some boyfriends as husbands one spanking
    is not enough in their getting the message thus a spanking
    may have to be repeated on a regular basis / if there to be
    a improvement in their behaviour. If one lacks the strength
    to give the necessery punishment / then ask female friends
    to aid in the punishment / thus that a sound spanking given.

    Like this

  11. Reblogged this on mailmanslens and commented:
    After reading this post and digesting it, I have decided to reblog it. Not only is this of utmost importance to women living in Egypt right now, but also for the women who are not even born as of yet who WILL live there. I found the conversational debate of did it happen or not very disturbing. Is the threshold for sexual harassment penile penetration? Has the burden of proof been tossed back to the person who has been harassed and molested? Also, in the current regime, is a women able to report such an occurrence or would they face additional harassment from the authority who is supposed to be protecting ALL persons, not just the males in a society. I can only reference the American female reporter that suffered the same type of sexual abuse from a group of men when she was reporting at a protest.

    Like this

  12. Reblogged this on an equal mind and commented:
    I very rarely reblog, but this is beautiful

    Like this

  13. You are going to tell me that this happened and you were not penetrated by one penis. I would have to call you a liar.

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    • First of all, I am a man. Secondly, you clearly didn’t read the article properly as it states that it is a testimonial from a female that was taken from an Anti-Sexual harassment group.

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      • I believe this is female BS. Stories like this are from women that do not handle men well at all. Anti-Sexual Groups that mean business do not behave this way or gain effective propaganda this way. Watching women take advantage of sexual harassment complaints, I have no use for this here. Being a female it is embarrassing to the female gender and makes me angry.
        Now does it matter who wrote it?

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        • If you don’t believe any of the above actually happens on a daily basis, then go ahead and go on Egypt’s street’s, interview women, go to protests, and find out for yourself – prove me wrong.

          Just FYI: 20,000 women and girls are raped each year in Egypt – that’s around 50 a day.Is it still BS?

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          • Provide me with facts not sensation and I might listen. If it is a matter of cultural communication breakdown, then say so without the drama. There is no defending either behavior here. Unless communicated to authority there is no helping it either.

            Yes. It is till BS to me. You want help here, then learn how to communicate it without the drama. Until it is communicated without drama then it remains that a drama.

            Like this

            • brownieboxblog // February 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm // Reply

              Wow. Where do you even live ?! I’m from Lebanon, and I walk to work everyday… countless of men give dirty looks and comments when I walk by. I see the way they look at girls and women, and it disgusts me. But there is nothing I can do about it if I protest alone. Why don’t I feel that way when I’m walking down the street of a European or American city? Why do Arab countries feel so unsafe when I am walking or driving a car without a man right by my side?
              I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world, and our voices should be heard everywhere! Enough is enough!

              Like this

              • There is no crime in the way people look at people. To even suggest that it has to do with sex means you are a very dangerous person, accusing before you know and I would worry more about you having voice in the law before anything else. What you just put in print is about as catastrophic “Please take me thinking” I have ever heard.

                I understand women are oppressed but don’t take it out on the innocent.

                I live in the USA born raised in LA the men here want and don’t want sex the same as there and in every other country too. If you are afraid of being shot, then you have issue. That may happen there more then the look or cat call anywhere else. Bullets the law can handle mind reading somebody’ looks the law ignore and your feelings get hurt. In fact, I probably had more of a chance or just as much getting shot in LA has you do. Yours do it in uniform more then ours did. Police are catching up though.

                If you are getting these looks everywhere Look to your own dress or take a taxi. Obviously you like it and like bitching about trivia more then everything else. Yes I am a looker woman too.

                This really pisses me off. Make a law against emotion in looking at somebody, making noise while in public. Could you ask the law to be degraded anymore by some idiot male that wants too then expect the law to work and be respected and give civil rights instead of take them?

                Like this

                • brownieboxblog // February 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm // Reply

                  “Look at your own dress”? Even the most respectable veiled women are being harassed, I don’t think that’s normal. And “take a taxi”? Do you know how unsafe they are in this country? Well I don’t think so. It’s very hard for foreigners to understand what Arab women go through daily. And if you read the post correctly, it’s not just how men look at us, it’s how they verbally assault every single woman on the streets and in their cars. There is clearly no respect towards us anymore, even the law does not protect our rights as women.

                  Like this

                • It is one thing to be “Hit On” in a country
                  that allows you press charges.

                  thugs know just how far they are allowed
                  to go, especially in public.

                  In a society that already oppresses women?

                  People opposed to women’s rights may have
                  added malice – it could be personal to them.

                  If the law doesen’t protect women to the
                  extent that protects them here in the states,
                  The thugs could press their luck much
                  further.

                  It is important to understand that this
                  matter needs attention – exagerated or
                  Not -

                  Women are a significant percentage
                  of the people in any society and must
                  be respected by the goverment that
                  wishes to remain stable.

                  Reports of injustice should be taken with
                  a grain of salt, but always investigated and
                  never ignored.

                  Like this

                  • mkesling63 // March 8, 2013 at 8:30 pm //

                    press charges all you like. Do they get prosectued? There are so many laws to prosectute under this issue. The REAL issue is they never do. So the problem to solve is not in deamnding another law it is getting all of them prosectued. Look to how many laws your country has on the same thing that this can be prosecuted under.

                    Like this

        • Wake up and smell the coffee. Have you been there?? It is not safe for a woman to be alone in the streets in Egypt.

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        • How dare you accuse these women of not being able to handle men. You are a disgrace to the female race..

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        • Idiots don’t have sane reasons bonyed “it felt good, man!”, however that translates into Arabic.But your right, how this can help Egypt’s fledgling democracy…But then Jews have been a convenient target for, lo, these many centuries.The idiots clearly don’t realise that if they’d ignore for the past two millenia, there wouldn’t _be_ any Jews. It’s _there_ persecution that aloowed us to collectively survive. Might as well be hung for a sheep as for as for a lamb. I’m blowed if I’m going to do any “as-a-Jew” tricks just for their satisfaction.Heavens, I’m gettoing aggressive these days!

          Like this

  14. Beautiful article. These women are so brave! Equality is so important, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, or religion. Abuse and domestic violence are everywhere, but for it to be so public is frightening. I will continue to watch these women change the world and educate people around me in my tiny piece of the globe.

    Like this

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  16. My hand to you for speaking out here, and I would think it equally true for the time to end ‘honor killing’ or the risks and harm of ‘mutilation.’ The time to express concern for woman (whatever age) is come… and the time to stop all persecution (whatever the religion).

    Like this

  17. Reblogged this on NetJulie and commented:
    Incredible how we are abused all around the world…

    Like this

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8 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Egyptian women: “It’s time for our voices to be heard” | Iyalovesyou's Blog
  2. http://egyptianstreets.com/2013/02/12/egyptian_women_sexual_harassment/ | The Defected Muslim
  3. Egyptian women: “It’s time for our voices to be heard” « Today,s Thought
  4. Egyptian women: “It’s time for our voices to be heard” « wanghqcn
  5. Outrage – a Response to Freshly Pressed Blog Entitled: Egyptian women: “It’s time for our voices to be heard” | rage_on_ny
  6. The ‘Epidemic’ of Sexual Harassment—and Rape—in Morsi’s Egypt | The Counter Jihad Report
  7. Egyptian women: “It’s time for our voices to be heard” | Ramblings Over a Cup of Green Tea
  8. On My Reading Desk This Week (02/10/13 – 02/16/13) | Word Vomit

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