A U.N. report found 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment
Advocates say this is an everyday reality for women in Cairo
The National Council for Women (NCW) was set up to tackle violence against women
Some say the women themselves need to be doing more to change the culture
A university student cowers in a pharmacy as a mob outside threatens her with sexual violence. A law student is groped by her classmates, the dean cites her “inappropriate attire.” Frightening allegations but advocates say this is an everyday reality for women in Cairo.
Habiba is a college student. CNN is only using her first name to protect her identity. She readily recalls the day a group of men chased her down the street. “Come on! You know they want to,” they shouted at her, while making lewd gestures she said.
Finally she ducked into a pharmacy but found no refuge inside. ”No one in the pharmacy did anything to help me despite my pleas, they just wanted me to leave,” Habiba said.
Habiba says the men wouldn’t leave but after two hours like this, she got tired of waiting. So she ran. Fast. ”I was so afraid that one of them would touch me … you just don’t forget something like that,” she said.
Incredibly, Habiba says this kind of thing happens to her daily.
And she’s not alone.
A 2013 United Nations report entitled “Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women” found that 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
The statistic shows how widespread the problem is, the stories get at the horror these women face.
Last month, a group of male students groped one of their female colleagues. Crying, she shut herself in the bathroom. Only when the men laid siege outside the bathroom did the university’s security move to accompany the girl safely off campus, according to witnesses.
The university’s dean, Gaber Nassar, blamed the woman for her ”inappropriate attire” on a local talk show last month. He said that she was wearing a black cloak that she took off as she entered the university. A YouTube video showed what she had on underneath: a long sleeved pink shirt, black pants and bleached blond hair.
He later retracted his comments on his official twitter account, apologizing for the misunderstanding and denying the victim would be reprimanded.
”We will not relent in the punishment of these harassers,” he added.
Habiba said it doesn’t matter what women wear. ”Even veiled girls get harassed all the time,” she said. “It’s a lack of ethics and culture more than anything.”
But some say the women themselves need to be doing more to change the culture.