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Thursday, September 20, 2007

40% of Egyptian women have been sexually abused

From YNet:

Yousra, the queen of the silver screen in the Arab world, is not only a beauty but also a highly opinionated actress who views her status as a springboard for conveying social messages. Every year during the Ramadan fast, the peak season for TV viewing in the Arab world, Yousra pushes urgent social issues to the forefront...

"A Case of Public Opinion," the latest Ramadan series, has become the talk of the town even before being aired in 22 Arab countries. Ratings are sky high; no one dares miss the show. This time the queen of the screen from Cairo chose to focus on a topic that Arab society has insisted on burying deep underground: Violent rape and sexual abuse .

The series recounts the story of three young female doctors who work in a respectable hospital in the heart of Cairo; the three are summoned in the middle of the night to treat an urgent case. As they race to the destination from a remote neighborhood, drugged thugs pounce on them from behind the shadows. They are attacked and raped, including the doctor whose pregnancy is very obvious. They weep, cut and bruised, while three knife cuts are evident on the cheek of the department head, portrayed by Yousra.

Ahead of the broadcasts, one of the human rights organizations in Egypt held a referendum among tens of thousands of women. The findings were shocking: 40 percent of respondents admitted that they had been raped and forced to remain silent. An additional 10 percent revealed that they are forced to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. If they open their mouths, they will lose their jobs.

In a "Case of Public Opinion", the marriage of the star doctor is falling apart. Her husband insists on ignoring the facts, and the legal authorities remove the complaint against one of the rapists, the son of a senior government minister. Even the fate of her two colleagues plays against them, when the hospital director hints that "if they don't shut up, they will be fired."
YNet seems to be mistaken; it is not 40% that have been raped but 40% that have been victims of "inappropriate touching":
Results from our preliminary research efforts (conducted entirely on a volunteer basis) show that sexual harassment is not only a persistent threat to some women, but that it is a widespread issue for all of Egyptian society. Survey results attest that harassment is not limited by age or social class, but hinders the progress of women across demographics. Service workers, housewives and professionals alike all report experiencing sexual harassment. The most common form is inappropriate touching (40% of all respondents), followed by verbal harassment (38%). 30% of respondents reported being harassed on a daily basis and another 12% are harassed almost daily. Only 12% of respondents approached police when harassed, expressing a complete lack of confidence in Egypt's police and legal system to protect them from harassers.
Al Jazeera adds:
Many Egyptian women have stories, usually branded as "shameful" and "embarrassing", of public harassment and even outright sexual assault in public.

...In October 2006, Wael Abbas, a human rights activist, captured video images of throngs of men pulling scarves off veiled women and ganging up on two or three women at a time in downtown Cairo.

One picture even showed a group of girls taking sanctuary in a downtown store, crowds of men waiting at the door as a number of police officers seemed unable to contain the pandemonium.
Apparently, the honor of women is not quite as important in Arab societies as they have been claiming.
(H/T EBoZ)