At the start of the Arab Spring the revolution in Egypt took center stage with a massive outpouring of Egyptians filling the squares of Cairo. The most prominent and most viewed around the world was Tahrir Square. Men and women from all religious backgrounds claiming not division but that they are all Egyptian and the stand as one. It seemed the Mubarak regime has brought the people together in one struggle. Women were even seen as strong opponents to the government and were shown actually leading the struggle in some cases.
There was, however, a more darker side of the revolution. Abductions, a sexual attack on an American female journalist, beatings and violence. Those against the revolution and democracy as a whole had created an environment of division and fear. Then came the police and the army to bring an end to the chaos and what ensued from there was more violence and more division. Then, finally the Mubarak administration collapsed which made way for the incoming president Mohammed Mursi and another uprising that resulted in his ousting and imprisonment.
During those times the streets and the squares saw a strong police presence, nightly curfews and quieter neighborhoods. But now that Egypt has a new president that they feel pretty confident in, there apparently is no need for a wide police presence because everything is good now right? Not quite. There is still the old problem of street harassment against women that has resurfaced even stronger on the streets and in the cars of Cairo. There have been several campaigns that have been created designed to stop street harassment, even UN Women has played a small part in empowering the women of Egypt to “Take back the streets”. However, this was short-lived. With no real police presence, harassers are having a free for all following women and girls in cars and on the streets. Some of them are bold enough to get out of their cars and follow them on foot to further assert their authority on them.
There is an entitlement attitude that some men in Egypt feel it is their right to treat a women in that way and if there is no one to stop them, they themselves will not stop. All those awareness campaigns must start again with a wider scope and a greater police presence to let them know this will not be tolerated not only by the women but by the public at large. The government must also realize this is a human rights violation, to make women and girls feel unsafe to go to the market, school or a cafe. A lot of it does take place during daytime hours.
But of course first the attitude about women in Egyptian society must change to accommodate further appreciation for women being a viable contribution to the country. Small changes have been made but unfortunately they are not that noticeable. To be fair, street harassment is not an Egyptian problem, it is a global problem. Especially in a city like New York it is magnified to epic proportions. The similarities are staggering if not the same. We must all work together to stop this, it’s a long road but one that must be traveled daily.