Monday, June 20, 2011

The Egyptian Way :: Sexual Harassment in Egypt #endSH

This blog post has been written in support of Blogging and Tweeting Day Against Sexual Harassment and Gender Violence in Egypt. The official hashtag is #EndSH.


I've been living and working in Cairo, Egypt for the past two years.

I did some research before I moved here. I knew about the filth and the pollution and the poverty and the cost of living. I knew that I wanted to live in Zamalek as opposed to Maadi or El Rahab. So I felt well equipped and ready to enjoy the fruits of the capital city.

It wasn't until I was actually living in Cairo that I noticed something different about the environment; actually I felt the difference. When I was walking down the street, I could feel the stares. I mean, women can stare at me and I don't feel uncomfortable, but when the men here stare at me, I just want to hide behind a brick wall. Their lusty looks are sinful and it's every bit of uncool.

Now, keep in mind, I grew up in an area where a guy would whistle at me and maybe even give me a genuine compliment when he got busted staring at me, but trust me when I say, it feels different here.

Luckily for me, I've only felt uncomfortable from guys staring at me. That is not even near the core of the problem. The Egyptian men make lewd noises and more unfortunate is that many women are physically harassed and assaulted - often in broad daylight when others are watching.  I've heard the stories - every woman in Cairo has heard the stories and/or witnessed the pain of the issue.

Part of the problem in Cairo though is that many people believe that sexual harassment is not a big deal. Take this recent article in Al Masry Al Youm "Sexual Harassment Starts at Home" where the father won't tell his son that harassing women is wrong; the father would only say in reference to his son's behavior that "kids will be kids." It's that kind of mentality that prevents society from turning a corner on this problem. The kids need to be taught that it's wrong.  Oh, and it would obviously help if there were some consequences for harassing women.

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