In Cairo and New Dehli, smart phone apps are being used to map sexual harassment and report sexual assault. Farah Jassat reports. She recently graduated from Newnham College and is currently a freelance journalist who has written for The Guardian and Huffington Post. She regularly blogs at www.farahjassat.com
My friend was once walking down a street in Cairo when a stranger in a nearby bus stuck his head out and shouted: “You’re a pretty girl but take your glasses off!” If that doesn’t provoke a ‘who-the-hell-are-you?!’ reaction I don’t know what does!
Most women who have lived in Cairo will be used to scenes of men hanging about on the streets (sometimes for no apparent reason). And unfortunately, a culture of attempted chat-up lines, catcalls and leers tends to go with it. Although incidents such as my friend’s experience are harmless, not everyone is so fortunate. It is a thin line that separates innocuous interjection from turning into offensive behaviour.
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights in Cairo called harassment in Egypt a “dangerous social cancer” in a survey in 2008. The survey’s results report that 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women experience sexually harassment throughout Egypt. The recent cases of sexual assault of journalists such asEgyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy have renewed security of the pressing need of increased public safety for women in Egypt.