It is a question we all should be asking – maybe we should have been asking for years, if not longer: can Egypt overcome its horrific patriarchal identity and give women the equality, both economically and socially, they deserve? After this week’s unfathomable comments in the Shura Council, that question seems as far from being a yes as it has been in years. And for Egypt, that is saying a lot.
According to Brotherhood MP and committee deputy chairman Ezzeddin El-Komi, “as many as 24 incidents of rape have been reported in Tahrir Square in recent days.”
“No one has made any effort to fight this disturbing trend,” El-Komi added, pointing out that one recent rape victim in Tahrir Square had been a female correspondent for Sky News TV.
Once again the Brotherhood, attempting to play politics in order to earn more support on the streets of Egypt, misses the facts. There are groups actively combating sexual violence, from Tahrir Bodyguard to Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment to HarassMap. These organizations have been present, asking for volunteers and rescuing women from crazed Egyptian men who have torn, grabbed and attacked innocent women who have simply demanded to be heard as the opposition to President Mohamed Morsi grows.
Mervat Ebeid, a female Brotherhood MP, urged women “to think twice” about participating in political demonstrations “so as not to become prey to sexual offenders and armed thugs who commit rape.” Anyone who questions this statement should think twice. Tahrir Square has become unsafe for women. Period. But at least she didn’t blame women themselves for bringing on the attacks.
And that is exactly what, of course, male MPs, said:
“Women should not mingle with men during protests,” said Reda Al-Hefnawy, Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) member. “How can the Ministry of Interior be tasked with protecting a lady who stands among a group of men?”
“Women sometimes cause rape upon themselves through putting themselves in a position which makes them subject to rape,” Afifi added.
There is really nothing that can be said except stupidity and anti-women sentiment runs deep in Egypt. It is the conservatives who say the wrong thing, but it has been the liberals who have continually argued this is “not the real Egypt.” They offer apologies, anger runs deep on social networks for a day and then flickers out so rapidly as if not talking about the problem will make it okay.
At least on Tuesday, with the “Global Protest Feb. 12″ women across the world are beginning to take notice and are ready to show their support for female protesters in the country. It’s a step, as Nancy Messieh told me on Monday, in the right direction.
“Don’t you think it’s good that it’s being addressed at all? Better than the complete silence from before,” said the Editor of @EgyptSource.
She’s right, but we have to continue to demand an end to the male-domination that continues to ravish Egypt. We, as members of the global society need to demand that Egypt establish anti-discrimination laws, its security forces apprehend and put to trial sexual perpetrators and we also need to demand an end to police brutality in order to have the police do what they are supposed to do: protect civilians.
In a country where corruption runs deep and politics and violence have become the currency, women continue to sit on the sidelines. We need female Egyptian leaders, political and social, to take the mantle away from men who have abused a system for far too long. They are no longer worthy of calling themselves Egyptian leaders. Perpetuating myths about women being to blame only conflates a problem in society where women are already perceived as inferior. Change will happen and these men will either join that change or be forced into exile where they belong: Saudi Arabia.
At the end of the session, the Shura Council Committee members recommended the establishment of “fixed places for female demonstrations.” Members also rebuked female protesters “who insist on demonstrating with men in unsecure areas.”
Right, because the problem is obviously women.