A woman protester waves the victory sign during clashes with military police near Tahrir Square.
By Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Egypt researcher
Almost every girl and woman – regardless of age, social status or choice of attire – who has walked the streets or taken public transport in Cairo, has experienced some form of verbal or physical sexual harassment.
This isn’t new. For years, Egyptian women’s rights activists and others have called on the authorities to recognize the seriousness of the problem.
There needs to be a fundamental shift in institutionalized attitudes that discriminate against women.
The Egyptian authorities must introduce legal reforms, prosecute perpetrators and address root causes, because the plight of women who have experienced sexual violence has been ignored.
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Egyptian women demonstrate in Cairo MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images
When Egyptian politics get hot, it’s women who most often feel the flames. So when a group of Egyptian women took to Tahrir Square this past Friday to denounce the frequent assaults on women activists, it wasn’t surprising that they themselves came under attack.
According to Amnesty International, the women were calling for an end to sexual harassment of woman protesters when a mob of men came upon them and groped and punched the activists.
These women stood up to demand an end to sexual harassment. What they got was intimidation and sexual assault.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
At a critical time for Egypt’s future, the attacks underscore how women’s rights to full political participation are central to the spirit of the 2011 uprisings and the hope that Egypt can develop a new political culture based on respect for all human rights. The attack on the women activists goes straight to the heart of the ruling regime’s efforts to maintain its old practices.
This was the second report this month of women protesters being assaulted in Egypt. Nihal Saad Zaghloul told Amnesty International that she and three friends were attacked by a large group of men on June 2 in Tahrir Square as they joined a protest after the verdict in Hosni Mubarak’s trial. She was pushed and groped and her headscarf pulled off before some men in the square came to her aid. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST