Study Says 83 Per Cent of Egyptian Women Report Sexual Harassment

by Rajashri on Sep 24 2008 3:10 PM

A study released by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR) in July has revealed that some eighty three per cent of Egyptian women have reported being harassed and 62 per cent of Egyptian men admit to sexually harassing women.

ECWR's study was the first of its kind, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Rebecca Chiao, international relations coordinator of the ECWR said, "Harassment is a real issue here, and it has worsened over the last 10 years."

"Until the 1970s there was very little harassment in Egypt, but things are different now," added Chiao.

"Religion itself is not the problem, but the issue here is this conservative trend that has been influenced by the Wahhabi trend in Saudi Arabia," says Chiao, referring to the austere form of Islam that dominates Saudi Arabia.

Experts say social trends are exacerbating sexual harassment on the streets here, the paper claims.

The ECWR blames economic deprivation and even the growing conservative religious trend that promotes a restricted social role for women, and rebukes those who step outside it.

Some see a broad cultural shift over the last generation, when young women rarely wore veils and Cairo was more of a secular city.

Premarital sex and dating are considered taboo in Egypt, but the country's economic woes are not allowing most young people to wed, which is leading to frustrations that materialize in the form of harassment, the paper claims.

Moreover, the growing traditionalist view of women's roles compounds the problem.

Amna Nosseir, a professor of philosophy and former dean of Al Azhar University in Cairo, one of the centers of Sunni Islam, says Egyptian culture has changed since her youth.

"The youths of today have nothing to fill their lives except TV and the Internet, and now we have this problem of late marriage," said Nosseir, and added, "When you combine it all, you will have social problems like harassment."

Nosseir says the cultural influences of the West duel with those of the conservative states of the Persian Gulf. Egyptians watch American actors do things that they cannot, like date or have premarital sex, added Nosseir.

According to the paper, the Egyptian Parliament is expected to consider a measure in its next session, which convenes in November that would make harassment a crime and make it easier for women to report to the police.

However, specifics on the law have not been made public.