Friday, July 19, 2013

Sexual attacks and the Egyptian male mentality

If  you  have high hopes that with the onset of a new govt. in Egypt and with the Muslim Brotherhood sent packing and licking their wounds,  Egypt is going to be a shining example of a Muslim nation .... think again. The islamic culture of misogyny and the hatred for people of other faiths is deeply embedded in the Egyptian male.

Mariam Kirollos writing at Jadaliyya:
.....Last September, sixteen-year-old Eman Mustafa   was walking with a friend in the village of Arab Al Kablatin Assiut, when a man groped her breasts. She turned to face him and spat in his face. He shot her dead with an automatic rifle as a price for her bravery. Mustafa’s death was an eye-opener call to those who claim that sexual violence is an urban issue. Thanks to human rights organizations and activist groups, Eman's killer was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2013.

Violence against women across historical, cultural, and national divides continues to be a socially accepted practice, if not a norm. In the realms of both policy and social awareness, we have collectively failed to tackle this issue with serious rigor. As a result, we seem to be witnessing an increase in sexual violence and brutality.

In Egypt, sexual harassment is widespread and touches the lives of the majority of women whether on the streets, in public transportation, or at the work place, the super market, or political protests. It is true that sexual harassment still lacks a unified definition, but it is not difficult to identify unwelcome verbal or physical sexual violation. Many Egyptians, women included, are unclear as to what constitutes sexual harassment. Others sadly, do not think it is a problem. One thing is clear though, and that is the actions of the various governments of the last thirty years have been limited to statements of regret and unmet promises.....

....Even though, for example, Eman Mustafa was a veiled villager, one key argument in the victim-blaming that is salient in our everyday narratives is the common and vulgar perception that sexual harassment occurs when women dress “provocatively.”  In fact, the only thing that Egyptians who face sexual harassment have in common is that over ninety-nine percent of them are females.........

.....The use of sexual violence as a political tool against women in protests dates back to 25 May 2005, also known as Black Wednesday. That day female protesters were targeted and sexually assaulted by plain-clothed policemen and NDP thugs in front of the press syndicate while protesting the constitutional amendments paving the way for Gamal Mubarak’s inheritance of the presidency.

The Public Prosecutor failed to pursue the case when it was reported to his office. However the following year, four female journalists decided to file a complaint to the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights with the help of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. After almost eight years of investigations, the commission issued the verdict blaming the Egyptian government for this incident. It called for financial compensation for the victims as well as for the prosecution to reopen investigations, which was a positive step for Egypt’s anti-sexual violence movement.

After the fall of Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011, successive governments have been complicit in sexual violence against female protesters. We can begin this trajectory with the “virginity tests” that the military conducted on seven female protesters on 9 March 2011. We can continue this trajectory until today. While I prefer sticking to the name sit al banat (the best of all girls), I am somehow thankful that the female protester who was savagely beaten by the military forces in December 2011 was clad in an abaya (robe). Her anonymity sheds light on the probable use of various forms of violence against any female protester, whether it is sponsored by the state, or covered by its complicity..............

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