Anti-Sexual Assault Demonstration

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Less than a dozen women gathered at Talaat Harb Square in Cairo to denounce sexual harassment. These women wanted to stand together to fight against street harassment and all forms of sexual assault in Egypt. When I approached the group, they were making signs, preparing pepper spray solution, and chatting with each other. I was initially surprised to find out that there were more reporters and non-Egyptians at the gathering. Nevertheless, I approached one of the main organizers and inquired about her motivations for this demonstration. She felt that Tahrir Square had been a safe place during the revolution and that thugs have changed the mood of the revolution. According to her, it is unsafe for women to walk around the square. For her, it is important to reclaim public spaces that are secure for women to walk through. In this vain, she and the other women organized the demonstration with Egyptian men who assisted in coordinating the demonstration. For example, some of the men served as security for the demonstration. After an hour of residing in Talaat Harb the group walked to Tahrir Square to Mohammad Mahmoud Street. The women (me included) held signs in Arabic saying phrases such as “Whatever I am wearing you have no right to touch me.” The men who were protecting them outnumbered the demonstrators. Despite that, the organizers successfully engaged in a discussion with the men who were passing by. This became an opportunity to openly talk about how men and women perceive street harassment.  When one organizer asked about harassment some of the men made the following statement:

“I am happy that you [the women] are doing this work. Hopefully things will change.”

“I would defend women who were sexually assaulted in certain circumstances.”

“Only uneducated men harass women on the streets”

“There is no sexual assault in Egypt.”

A young man in his mid 20s asked the demonstrators if Egypt should implement sharia law. In response, a woman holding a sign indicated that she was not there to talk about religion. Overall, the men who gathered were ready and willing to listen. Here are some pictures and a clip from the demonstration. ImageImage

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