Sunday, February 10, 2013

Egyptian homeless children are also being raped


From Egypt Independent:
I read the papers and online testimonials of group attacks on women in the streets. If I had not read the titles, I would have thought the authors had suddenly taken an interest in the daily lives of street children. I would have assumed they had become avid observers who had taken to the street to highlight this prevalence, and its normality in the street culture that very young children live every night.

But no. The titles indicate these testimonials are about younger and older “welaad naas” women of the middle class — because, remember, street kids are the excluded class. These articles are written because “citizens” have been struck, “citizens’” honor has been violated, and “citizens’” human rights have been wronged.

But street children? They aren’t citizens — they don’t even hold IDs. When they arrive, raped, shot or dead in front of the shelter doors, there hasn’t been a crime because a citizen hasn’t been involved. So, no, this flood of articles about harassment, sexual attacks and gang rape on the streets is not about street kids.

But this is the everyday reality for these children, and I have come to know these streets in the way that they have been recently discovered by others. So I thought that maybe by writing this, I could shed a different light — a look from a different angle — on a phenomenon that so many are horrified by and so unfamiliar with.

I am arguing here that this is just one of the ugly faces of the street, just as each human, each friend, has an ugly face, which you get to see, know and get scorned by once you have spent a long enough time with it. Its reality and its crudeness cannot hide forever. The euphoria of the imagined utopia of solidarity that the street brings during revolutionary times begins to crack, and the street and all its non-citizen inhabitants become a reality that you cannot escape.

Talking about scarring — a lot of attention and horror has been expressed following the attack in which a blade was used on one victim of these assaults. I wonder about the irony of the timing of this. Just last month, I took one of my street girls to a generous plastic surgeon who had offered my girls free reconstructive surgery for the scars they suffered during such attacks on the street.

The scarring is part of the street rape culture; any boy or girl who has been raped on the street will be “marked.” This mark, usually a curve under the eye of the victim, will mean they are no longer virgins. Subsequent sexual attacks — and there will be many — will lead to smaller marks anywhere else on the body.

One girl, who none of us at the shelter will ever forget, was lucky. She escaped the scarring on the face but needed 16 stitches on her lower back, where she was knifed as she escaped her rapists.

I am not an expert in conspiracy theories, but I am a consultant on street kids and the risks of the street. And so, when I read the musings that the National Democratic Party, the Muslim Brotherhood or someone else is organizing these mob sex attacks, my better judgment makes me tentative.

I remember that no one paid the four men in their 30s and 40s to gang rape 7-year-old Maya who had been living in the street for just four days before that. The younger the child, the attackers think, the smaller the risk of contracting HIV.