In Egypt, sexual harassment has been an issue for quite sometime. Women can’t walk down the street without being harassed whether verbally, physically or just by inappropriate looks. According to the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights research 85% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment and 55% of them are exposed to it on a daily basis.
That’s why during the first 18 days of the Egyptian revolution, everyone was shocked as to how there was almost no sexual harassment at all in Tahrir square. Unfortunately, this didn’t last for long. On February 11th, the day Mubarak stepped down, on a day where everyone was ecstatically happy, after I marched for the whole day till the presidential palace, my ass was groped on my way back into the square. Many girls reported similar incidents that night, and lets not forget the horrible ordeal that happened to Lara Logan who was sexually assaulted in the square.
Since that day, everyone expected to live happily ever after and to see the country move forward politically, economically, and socially. However, that was not the case. And for the sake of the purpose of this post, I will only focus on sexual harassment. In most protests that happened over the past 9 months there have been reports of sexual harassment. Before the revolution started all my personal encounters of sexual harassment have been verbal. From catcalling to pornographic poetry about my breasts and sweet sweet ass. However, the first time I was actually groped was sadly enough in Tahrir square during the July 8th sit-in. It made sense that it would happen, since especially on weekends, the square attracted people who were not there for the protests but to hang out, eat sweet potato and check out the chicks.
This has been the case in the square since then. Some men in the square will help out, kick the guy out of the square or beat the shit out of him. However, others would stand idly and watch or ever blame the woman. Many women have also started fighting back; Yasmine Khalifa, an MA graduate of women’s studies, got groped in the square and punched the guy.
So yes it has been a problem. Today though, was out of the ordinary; even for a huge Friday protest. More than one girl I’ve spoken to personally today has had horrible (and multiple) sexual harassment experiences. Not to mention the amount of complaints on twitter just from today. Personally, I had a very negative experience with harassment today with much groping and verbal abuse.
So this got me thinking; why today? The square is different this time around. There is much more tension in the air. Sadness over the lost and injured. Giving food and supplies became more of a business; even if there is still a big dependence on donations and sharing. Anger from SCAF’s brutality. All of this with hope and faith in a bright future.
So why today? Today, there was also a pro-scaf rally in Abbasiya square reported at about 15,000 people participating. There was also a ceasefire with the police, after the army built a concrete wall (oh the irony!) between the protesters and the police following 5 days of fighting and breaking of ceasefires from both sides. Today was also the day that had the most sexual harassment. It got so far that Media rights group Reporters Without Borders advised media outlets to stop sending female reporters to Tahrir Square, in light of continued reports of sexual violence against female reporters covering unrest in the square.
And why are there so many cases with this intensity today? Is it because of the amount of people there? Or maybe even army or police insiders in the square trying to make women uncomfortable? Is it because it was full of people who were not there for the protests, but are just going to Tahrir because its cool? I’m not sure. But something definitely was up and we need to fight it.
If women are being chased away from the square after terrible experiences, and if fathers and husbands start making their daughters and wives stop going, it weakens us. It weakens our revolution and our cause. Stand up for sexual harassment, whether you are male or female. Don’t let it go unnoticed. Whether you are male or female. Speak up to it, make a scene. Lets deal with this whether through street justice or organised awareness and policing. Let’s keep the square safe for the women of the revolution.