I haven’t written much about this but it is a problem that not only my classmates face on a daily basis because they are foreign and are therefore considered to be “loose” by many Egyptian men, but a problem that Egyptian women, veiled an not veiled, face as well. This is a landmark ruling in a country that has chosen to ignore, both on a legal/political and social level, a frankly disgusting and unacceptable phenomenon.
The BBC and Reuters reported a few months ago on polling that was done in which over two-thirds of Egyptian men admitted to sexual harassing women in the streets. This harassment is both verbal and physical.
Just to give you more of an idea, I’ll share a few stories:
1. A girl on my program almost went home for good after she was constantly harassed near her home. In one incident a man grabbed her and wrapped his arms around her, and in another a man touched her crotch.
2. My roommate’s girlfriend is constantly glared at, whistled at, and told things like “sexy, so sexy,” often even while he is with her.
3. My professor told us that a few years ago she would find holes in her pants from men spraying hydrochloric acid out of syringes at her while she walked by them on the street. The men were eventually arrested and justified their actions by saying that my professor was inappropriately dressed in her slacks.
4. Someone spit in my classmate’s face last week while she was boarding the metro.
5. An American-Egyptian classmate from 2006 told me a story about a security guard who chased her down the street and threatened to throw her in jail if she did not kiss him after he saw her hug a male classmate in the street.
6. In 2006 and more recently last month mobs of young men have physically harassed women in the street, groping them and ripping their clothes.
I could go on and on. The arrest and subsequent sentencing of the man in this case has caused an uproar in Egypt and will hopefully bring this issue to the forefront of the public sphere. One of the biggest problems regarding this phenomenon is the social taboo on Egyptian women dealing with anything sexual. It is a big deal that this woman actually reported that she was harassed because most of these things go unreported for fear of social repercussions.