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Cultures et societes en Egypte et dans le monde arabe - Arab and Egyptian cultures and societies

Egypte: harcélement sexuel, comment lutter?

Publié par nicoducaire sur 19 Février 2009, 18:13pm

Catégories : #Egypte, #Femmes-Féminismes

Un article de l'AP:

Egyptian women, some men, fight sexual harassment

ZAGAZIG, Egypt — Dressed in karate uniforms and track suits, the young Egyptian women break off in pairs and begin sparring, with one kicking and punching while the other tries to block the attacks.

The nearly two dozen women and girls in a small gymnasium in this city of one million, north of Cairo, are learning to fight off assailants — a rare training for women in the Arab world.

Such self-defense classes have popped up in the last year across Egypt as this conservative Muslim country for the first time turns major attention to the issue of sexual harassment. Women — and even some men — have launched campaigns against sexual harassment around Cairo, using Facebook to raise awareness among the country's Internet-savvy youth.

It's one way in which the Internet is turning public attention to issues that were kept hidden among Arabs in the past. Open discussion of the harassment issue first emerged two years ago after blogs in Egypt gave broad publicity to amateur videos showing men assaulting women in downtown Cairo during a major Muslim holiday.

But a recent survey by a women's group, which found widespread harassment of women in Cairo and its environs, made the issue one of the country's hottest topics. Even the government, long hostile to even discussing the issue, now appears ready to take action. Legislation to outlaw harassment is before the parliament, and police have arrested dozens of alleged perpetrators in recent months.

In a landmark case in October, a judge handed a stiff sentence of three years in prison to a truck driver convicted of grabbing a 27-year-old woman's breasts as she walked by.

"That was a turning point in attitudes. The judge sent a serious message that harassment is a serious crime," said Nehad Abul Komsan, the head of the rights group that conducted the survey.

It's been common knowledge for years that the problem was rife, with women mostly talking privately about it.

The study by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights showed that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women surveyed said they are sexually harassed. Even more startling: 62.4 percent of men surveyed said they harassed women.

The survey also found that what a woman wore — in a country where the Islamic head scarf is common — did not matter. Of those who reported being harassed, about one-third said they were wearing a scarf and conservative clothing. Just under one-fifth said they were even more covered up — donning a veil and an all-encompassing cloak.

The survey sample of 2,020 Egyptians was divided equally among men and women, and researchers conducted the questioning in person in Cairo and its sprawling suburbs. The survey also included responses by 109 foreign women living in Egypt.

The high rate of harassment points to larger problems in this strict Muslim society. Egyptian women rarely report being harassed, to avoid public embarrassment or alleged dishonor to their family. Police and security forces have generally taken little interest in stopping the practice, sometimes even harassing women themselves.

Also, in a country where 20 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, men and women must wait until they can afford to get married and set up housekeeping. Premarital sex is regarded as "haram" — forbidden under Islam — so the country is teeming with sexually frustrated, often unemployed young men.

Much of the harassment is verbal — young men hanging out in groups on crowded streets hissing comments, some of them vulgar, at passing women: "You're beautiful." "What is your name?" "I want to have sex with you."

But it can also come in even more disturbing forms — men who follow women as they walk home, grab women's butts or chests or touch their thighs while sitting next to them on a bus.

"On a weekly basis, I have almost three or four incidents in the street happen to me," said university student Asmaa Mohammed, 21, after a recent self-defense class in Zagazig.

After the survey came out, a few women wrote first-person newspaper editorials about being grabbed or insulted by men. Groups of young people started creating anti-sexual harassment campaigns to raise awareness among their peers at universities and throughout Cairo.

"We felt we had to have a more organized way of describing the problem that wasn't only complaining about it," said Abul Komsan of the women's rights group. "We didn't want to attack the society, but (to) start a dialogue and start talking about it. We want to send a message to all women in Egypt that you are not alone."

In the middle-class Cairo neighborhood of Mohandiseen, a group of men and women created an anti-harassment campaign sponsored by Kelmetna, a magazine for young people.

Called "Respect Yourself," it targets Egyptian men and encourages Egyptian women to speak out, too. The group holds rallies at universities and canvasses the streets, reminding taxi drivers and food vendors to uphold Egypt's tradition of hospitality. On Facebook, the campaign boasts more than 48,000 members.

At one recent meeting, several teenage girls stood up and told the group about instances of being sexually harassed.

"I was standing in a crowded Metro (train) and he grabbed my butt. I turned around, and he was smiling. I pushed him and started crying. Nobody did anything. I felt alone and I was scared," said 16-year-old Hadeer Amr Ibrahim.

One of the group's leaders, Ahmed Salah, asked Ibrahim if she felt stronger now that she had joined the campaign.

"I feel safer and I feel this campaign is with me now," she said as the group started clapping.

Some hardline conservatives persist in blaming women, saying they provoke harassment by wearing tight clothing or too much makeup. Others who have influence in the society — including Egypt's first lady, Suzanne Mubarak — have theorized that only a few "bad apples" were to blame.

But among the young, revulsion at the widespread sexual harassment appears to be growing. Asmaa Mohammed, the young woman at the self-defense class in Zagazig, said she plans to encourage all her female friends to learn how to fight back.

"An Egyptian woman should learn how to defend herself because we are in a society where there are a lot of bad things that young men do to us," she said.

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