Introducing…. Mayam Mahmoud! She is a young Egyptian woman, who is playing her part
in trying to make her country stand up, listen and do something about the endemic harassment that takes place daily in this country. She first appeared in “Arabs got talent” and very quickly was award the “Index Arts Award” for the voice of free expression. The dress she was wearing for the occasion was one with examples of much graffiti that has appeared in Egypt, about women’s rights. She raps strongly about the rights of women and above all how freedom is our duty before it becomes her right!
SO WHAT IS HARRASMENT?
In Egypt, it is said that 98% of all foreigners who visit, and 83% of all Egyptian women have been harassed in some way in their lives:
- lewd words
- leering looks and jeers
- being grabbed
- being stalked
- being constantly telephoned
- …… and worse!
Mayam is a public figure of the new generation of women who will no longer “just live with” what is now so prevalent in this country. She talks about the things that others do not have the courage to talk about. She brings about a sense of hope for so many young girls, enthusiastic female students and young women who daily have to live with a barrage of filth from boys and mostly younger men as they walk the streets to school and university and take public transport back home.
IS THIS ACCEPTABLE?
One of the problems is that some men have come to accept it as their “right”. As I was recently told by a young woman who had a truly horrid experience in Cairo, when confronted by other men as they tried to protect her, the harass-ers claimed:
“We are Egyptian, this is what we do!”
Somehow blame is always put on what the women are (or not) wearing, but most research indicates that clothing has very little to do with the real reason! The lack of respect and blatant disregard of women as anything but a “thing to be grabbed” is becoming increasingly evident.
SO WHAT CAN BE DONE?
It must be said that usually for every male (or group of males) who is taunting a woman or girl, one or more who will be willing to come to help assistance can be found. Many men will try and help, and heap an angry tirade on the perpetrators, possibly even a punch or 2!
However many feel that a lot more can and needs to be done within the legal and justice systems, as well as education in schools and reinforcement in the homes: all women should be treated with respect, and if not, then the males responsible should be dealt with strongly and fairly.
AND WHAT ABOUT VISITORS:
We would like to encourage all those foreigner visitors to dress modestly, not aiding the prevailing stereotype that all foreigners are “loose”! Also, single women should not travel around alone, especially if this is a first visit to the country. If you are going out at night, go in a group, and make sure you have a trusted person who can speak the local language with you.
Speak out against it where you can, encourage the women and girls around you not to be ashamed and to stand strong and demand change in the nation. But also encourage the men and boys you meet to respect women and girls, and be their protectors, not their harassers!