Mapping the sexual harassment in Egypt

By Marina Ferhatovic

EGYPT. Catcalls, whistling sounds, verbal harassment or even stalking and groping… Women on the streets of Cairo have to deal with many different forms of sexual harassment on daily basis. Engy Ghozlan, co-founder of harassmap.org wants to be part of the solution:

“In a country like Egypt, with all its history and culture, women should not have to put up with this. We want our Egypt back. ”

Under the bridge of 15th of May and right next to the Nile, over a hundred people have gathered at the El Sawy Culturewheel to take part in the Social Media Café in Cairo.

Social Media Café @Marina Ferhatovic

The focus of the event is sexual harassment of women, an issue of great proportions, according to Engy Ghozlan, one of the key speakers. As a way to increase the awareness about the issue, she co-founded the harassmap.org, an online platform which allows women to report incidents of sexual harassment online, via Facebook, Twitter or with their phones. The reports are then displayed on an interactive map showing exactly where the incident occurred.

“We want to show how big the problem is, identify the hotspots and create a forum for people to share and discuss their experiences. Too many people still think that this is not a big deal.“

Engy Ghozlan @Marina Ferhatovic

Harassment is, according to harassmap.org, everything from catcalls and verbal harassment to stalking, touching, groping or phone harassment. A study by the Egyptian Centre for Women Rights shows that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women report that they have been sexually harassed in Egypt. In despite of that, there is no law that specifically targets sexual harassment.

“The laws we have are insufficient. They do not criminalize sexual harassment of women and in the end it all depends on which judge you get”, Engy Ghozlan says.

The widespread sexual harassment has been largly unadressed until a couple of years ago. In a landmark sexual harassment case in 2008, a man was sentenced to three years imprisonment for harassing a young woman in broad daylight.

@Wael Abbas

The social media activists and bloggers played their part in exposing the issue further. The prominent Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas, with a record of million hits per day on his blog, brought a great deal of attention to the issue by publishing pictures and video clips of sexual harassment and also exposing the police indifference.

“When our posts and videos reached the public via internet, it created a debate. This put pressure on the regime and suddenly all the papers were writing about it”, he says.

Under the pressure from activists, the parliament started working on a new sexual harassment law in the beginning of this year. The law has still not been passed.

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