Opinion

Describing Girls’ Clothes is Vital in Sexual Harassment Reports: Egypt Newspapers Logic

Describing Girls’ Clothes is Vital in Sexual Harassment Reports: Egypt Newspapers Logic

Women chant slogans as they gather to protest against sexual harassment in front of the opera house in Cairo June 14, 2014. Asmaa Waguih/ Reuters

A woman was sexually harassed by dozens of men on Friday in the city of Zagazig in Lower Egypt, another incident that reveals how the vast majority of Egyptians link women’s clothes to sexual harassment, and further blame them for not respecting men walking on the streets.

While the main incident was a mob sexual harassment case insulting and harassing a woman on her way back home from a wedding, several newspapers found it rather compelling to describe her clothes, even stressing the fact that she was “wearing a short dress”, when in fact, it was not relevant.

The newspapers included information and description about her clothes in their headlines and leads, an indicator of how important they see it as a vital part of the story.

The girl was rescued by the police after several locals had tried to help her from the harassers, but to no avail.

The privately-owned Veto-Gate said, “Dozens of youths harassed a girl who was wearing ‘tempting and attention-grabbing clothes’ in Zagazig.”

While a TV show on the privately-owned LTC channel “successfully” managed to find a clear photo of the girl and her clothes, even though they tried after showing the photo to say that it is not an excuse.

Eyewitnesses told the privately-owned Al-Youm Al-Sabee that the girl was spotted on the streets wearing clothes that revealed her “femininity”.

Masr Al-Arabiya website interviewed random people to ask them about the incident, one of the interviewees said, “This is not Europe for her to wear like this”, the interviewee further added those men are currently facing problems in marriage in Egypt, so girls cannot wear tight pants and short skirts and ask to end sexual harassment.

Several other newspapers and TV shows followed the footsteps of the aforementioned ones, which lead back to the main question, why did they find it relevant to mention the clothes and describe it? What value would it add? Would it change the fact that tens of thousands of women are subject to sexual harassment every day?

The problem was not limited to the newspapers; it extended to reach the investigations conducted by the police that also stressed that she was wearing a short dress.

It is rather common in Egypt to blame girls for being sexually harassed and to refer to their clothes as the reason. If a girl is sexually harassed, then she was either asking for it, or wearing revealing clothes. In the absence of constructive and honest discussions on sexual harassment, men are always exempted in Egypt and given several excuses for sexually harassing, starting from “everything is rather expensive and they can’t get married and have needs” to “he was seduced by the revealing clothes”.

While, according to Egypt’s penal code, sexual harassment is a crime, Egypt still witnesses thousands of harassment cases. Those found guilty are penalised with a fine of EGP 3,000 to EGP 5,000 and /or a jail sentence of at least six months.

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