83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women living in Cairo have been sexually harassed. It is therefore no surprise that Egyptian women are begginning to press for social change as well as political change. HarassMap, a social networking site launched in November 2010 by a group of concerned women, is leading the charge
HarassMap is a project that has put in place a system in Egypt for reporting incidences of sexual harassment via SMS messaging. This tool will give women a way to anonymously report incidences of sexual harassment as soon as they happen, using a simple text message from their mobile phone. By mapping these reports online, the entire system will act as an advocacy, prevention, and response tool, highlighting the severity and pervasiveness of the problem. The project will utilize FrontlineSMS and the Ushahidi Engine.
A publication by Amnesty International also highlighted the plight of Egyptian women forced to undertake “virginity” tests at the hight of the Egyptian protests. In the report “20-year-old Salwa Hosseini told Amnesty International that after she was arrested and taken to a military prison in Heikstep, she was made, with the other women, to take off all her clothes to be searched by a female prison guard, in a room with two open doors and a window. During the strip search, Salwa Hosseini said male soldiers were looking into the room and taking pictures of the naked women. The women were then subjected to ‘virginity tests’ in a different room by a man in a white coat. They were threatened that “those not found to be virgins” would be charged with prostitution”
It is evident that Egypt and other parts of Africa need to demand not only political change that throw out dictators but also social change that will guarantee women with the same rights as men.
As Mona Eltahawy, one of the most influential and vocal proponents of political change in Egypt intimated in her article – “Virginity tests will spark next revolution” – “It’s a perfect time for gender to come out of the revolution’s closet”.
By: Fatima Atta Aidoo