Women brandish knives to protest sexual harassment in Cairo

 
Following a spate of attacks on women during recent anti-government protests, hundreds of people marched through downtown Cairo on Wednesday, including a few dozen women brandishing knives and batons. The march culminated in the symbolic Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the Egyptian revolution, where a shocking number of attacks were recorded in a single day two weeks ago.
 
According to local anti-harassment groups, 19 sexual attacks took place on January 25 alone, during protests marking the two-year anniversary of the revolution in Tahrir Square. In one of these cases, a mob raped a young woman using a sharp object, severely injuring her. These incidents have shocked many in a country where attacks on women are widespread. According a study by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, more than 80 percent of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment; the problem is particularly pronounced in large cities.
 
Amnesty International released a statement on Wednesday calling on Egypt to bring perpetrators to justice and asking Mohammed Morsi to take “dramatic steps to end this culture of impunity and gender-based discrimination.” Egyptian activists have suggested better police protection as well as the creation of a special entity to handles cases of sexual violence.
 
Video of protesters' march, viewed from above.
Contributors

“The goal of rapists and harassers is to scare us off the streets”

Sally Zohney is a women’s rights activist. She lives in Cairo.
 
The way the Egyptian media covered the spate of mob rapes on January 25 made it sound as though women should just stop going to protests in Tahrir Square. But of course, that’s the goal of rapists and harassers: to scare us off the streets. So we wanted to show them that we won’t be scared away, and called on the government to protect protesters.
 
During our march, women chanted, “As long as a woman’s body is cheap, we will keep chanting against every president.” Today, there is no rule of law: police will generally tell you that you deserve whatever happens to you in Tahrir Square or at protests elsewhere, because you chose to go out in the first place. That’s why many protesters blame the government for creating a climate of impunity that fosters sexual harassment."
 
Protesters at the start of the march. Photo courtesy of Kandil
 
“We sent a strong message: the women are back on the streets, even those who survived attacks”
 
I also saw dozens of women marchers carrying batons and kitchen knives, brandishing them in the air to show the world that they would fight back if attacked. That was a bit scary, to be honest, but I understand where they’re coming from. No one attacked the march, thankfully; it was guarded by volunteers, many of them men from OpAnti-Sexual Harassment, who formed human shields around the protesters to protect them. We were all a bit paranoid, since protests for women’s rights have been attacked in the past.
 
Photo courtesy of Kandil.
 
I was so heartened to see older men and women join the protest; enraged parents yelling and telling us how proud they were of us. A rape victim who had told her story in the media came out too; it meant a lot to us for her to be there. I think we sent a strong message: the women are back on the streets, even those who survived attacks.
 
An elderly protester. Photo coutesy of Kandil.
 
Protests aside, sexual harassment is an everyday occurrence here. For example, as I was on my way to the march, a man tried to reach out and grab my breasts. I managed to push him away, but it’s exhausting, having to be on the lookout for such men all the time – having to pay attention to who’s walking behind me, in front of me, beside me.

Comments

Harassment of Women

It is really a shame that women are treated so badly. It is the woman that is responsible for bringing man or woman into the world. Does Islam allow such dirty treament of woman by a man. What is the use of praying five times a day in the mosque if one does not respect another gender who also is created by God(Allah). Egypt is considered one of the oldest of the civilisations in the World. A woman ruled Egypt and it is none other than Cleopatra. It is such treatment of woman does a religion get a bad name. When will the good Muslims realise that what is happening to Woman is not good for them or for the world. Woman has every right to coexist on this earth and none can do away with it. It is high time that they are given equal rights in Society and they are looked upon as fellow human beings. A man cannot live without a wife, a brother would find it difficult to live without a sister and all relationships will have no meaning if we men do not behave in a civilised manner.

No effort none whatsoever can

No effort none whatsoever can be enough to remedy to the Arab women's plight! It's a paradox! They are the ones who give birth, nurture, raise and educate (more often than not) their brood and yet they have yet to secure a social status outside their homes to be considered full partners of their masculine counterpart! How many idiots does it take to build a fair society where women have their rightful place?

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Social Disease

I do support all women in arab world against what they face of abuse any where, but I don't believe that connecting the inhuman actions to islamists, or any religion either, i do believe that this is a social disease like other many diseases needs to be socially treated, we should rise our kids since they see the light to believe that nothing ..nothing deferent between boy and girl but the physical body, it is a social responsibility and the mosques as well, they should be brave enough to face their fault by isolating genders from each other in bad way, so its become like two deferent creatures from deferent plants, but in same time, we should not support as well the bad reaction of letting this happen, so we should not give fully uncontrolled gathering of both genders and let the media controlling their actions, here we will loose both of them, i wonder where are all our social specialists whom should come out with a solution for next generations??!! we are going deeply to big conflicts in our societies because of this kind of abuse against women, which no religion at all may even allow.

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