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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"I want my daughter to vacation in Egypt"

An bizarre column by Jonathan Power published in the Arab News:
My 18-year-old-daughter asked me on Saturday where she can safely travel to when she finishes school in June and has three months holiday before going to university in September. “The Muslim countries or Japan”, I replied.

She was quite taken aback. At school they talk about the US, Australia, Thailand and South America. “No”, I said very empahtically, “I don’t want you to go there”, and then set about explaining to her and her mother why I felt so strongly.

I pulled out the figures from the new 2009 UN World Development Report. After a lot of research into different types of measurement, the UN decided that the only accurate one was the homicide rate. If you try to compare rape, theft, break-ins etc. there is confusion — every country, apart from those in European Union, measure these in different ways. Some figures are accurate, some seem like they’ve been drawn out of a hat.

But most countries report their murder rate pretty accurately.

To cut a long story short, I would gladly let her go to Egypt, which has the world’s lowest murder rate — at 0.4 per 100,000 population. Although it is closely followed by Japan at 0.5, other Muslim, mainly Arab, countries follow next, all with less than one murder per 100,000 of population. The United Arab Emirates, including that hot bed, Dubai, is at 0.6; Oman at 0.6; Saudi Arabia at 0.9; Bahrain at 1; and Jordan at 0.9. Even Indonesia, with all its political troubles, comes out at 1.1. Outside the Arab countries, the Scandinavian countries are the safest. Norway is at 0.8, Denmark at 0.8 and Iceland at 1. But Sweden breaks the Scandinavian success rate with a poor 2.4. Holland and Ireland do well too.

So daughter, there is your list that I approve and your mother has been persuaded to approve. None of the others you mention or think about are safe, so forget about them. Ironically for us, they are countries with a Christian heritage— the US at 5.6; Mexico at 13; Russia at 19.9; South Africa at 47.5; and Columbia at 62.7.

Jonathan Power must really love his daughter. After all, he is very worried about the 0.0056% chance that she would be murdered if she visited the United States for an entire year.

It is curious that he is not concerned at all about the greater than 30% chance that she would be sexually harassed in Egypt on any particular day:

...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.
And more recently from the Christian Science Monitor:
As May Zayed gets ready to leave for her downtown office, she tries to prepare for the harassment she'll face on the street. The 20-something member of Egypt's large working class says she has learned to tune out most lewd comments. But it's impossible to ignore everything. "There is no way to get ready for it," she says. "It just becomes part of your normal life."

According to a study released by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR) in July, 62 percent of Egyptian men admit to sexually harassing women, and 83 percent of Egyptian women reported being harassed. Half say it happens every day.

So, the probability that Powers' daughter will be sexually harassed as a single woman walking alone in Egyptian streets during a week-long vacation is pretty much 100%. But chances are pretty low that she would be murdered, so definitely Egypt is a better vacation destination for his daughter than London or New York.

If your priorities (and math skills) are really, really poor.