Egypt: Revolution Did Not Increase Safety for Women
Thursday, January 26, 2012 9:20 AM

A 2008 survey conducted by Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women were victims of sexual harassment. Even after the empowerment surge related to last year’s revolution, sexual harassment and assault are common in Egypt. Former state television news anchor Shahira Amin explains “[e]gypt is a male-dominated society and men see it as their right to verbally abuse women, grope them. Women are ashamed to speak out and we’ve been brought up to think it is okay.” While recent demonstrations have shown increased solidarity and focus on women’s rights, pundits expect that with the upcoming election, this new energy and support for equality may be over just as it began.

The good news is that even if radical change is not likely soon, major inroads have been made. Worldwide criticism of the attacks on journalists Lara Logan and Mona Eltahawy focused international pressure on the country in the past year. In addition to traditional media, social media tools have been developed to increase awareness of sexual harassment and violence. HarassMap is a new interactive website developed by Rebecca Chiao and Engy Ghozlan to track incidents throughout Egypt. Users are able to anonymously report harassment, and that information is aggregated and displayed on a map. Women can look at the website and instantly know where the worst forms of harassment have recently occurred.


Government change, while slow, has made some progress, starting even before the revolution. The results of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights survey aided in the drafting of a new law criminalizing sexual harassment. The 2008 act was first used later that year when Noha Rushdy pressed for her assaulters to be prosecuted under the new statute. The prosecution was the first ever for sexual harassment in Egypt. Finally, Bothiaina Kamel’s candidacy for president has resulted in even more publicity for women’s rights and equality. The fact that she can run is a direct result of the progress made by the revolution and women’s human rights advocates in the country.


Compiled from: Sinay, Reenat, Revolution Hasn’t Made Egypt Safer for Women, TrustLaw (10 January 2012).