Fri, Jul 12, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Sexual violence rampant as Egypt transitions to democracy

By Nabila Ramdani  /  The Guardian

The reality is that many Egyptian men blame women for bringing attacks upon themselves with their conduct in public. Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah, a radical Islamic preacher, suggested women protesting in Tahrir Square “have no shame and want to be raped.” In February 2012, members of the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, also blamed women for the assaults being carried out on them in Tahrir Square.

One member, Adel Afifi, said: “Women contribute 100 percent to their rape because they put themselves in that position [to be raped].”

Such comments reflect an arch-conservative belief that women should stay at home with their families rather than engage in the political process — a view that was given official sanction following the election of Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, as head of state.

Some have tried to legitimize male “guardianship” by equating gender equality with anti-religious liberalism. Mubarak was a friend to the imperialist US and it was Suzanne Mubarak, the detested and now deposed first lady, who pushed for pro-women legislation, including a wife’s right to sue for divorce and a quota system favoring female election candidates. As the Muslim Brotherhood moved to reverse such measures, these policies became firmly associated with the rejected dictatorship.

Whichever government ends up administering the fledgling, post-revolutionary state of Egypt over the next few months, it is unlikely that controlling the abuse of women will be a priority.

Instead vigilante groups such as Tahrir Bodyguard and Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH) offer to discourage attackers usually through strength of numbers, but if necessary by using sticks and belts. It is a rough and potentially inflammatory form of deterrence, but in a country where almost everybody is becoming a victim of some kind it is pretty much all women can hope for.

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