Written by Mariem ELTagoury
*Please note that names of places & people are kept discreet for privacy issues. Also the use of Franco Arab in this article is to deliver the detailed picture of incidents.
Today’s topic might seem to some as old or worn out with discussion. I know I’ve dropped my opinion about the topic a couple of times; but this week, I decided to turn the tables. This week, I’ll be voicing the young men and women of Cairo. I shall be giving you their opinions and experiences with sexual harassment.
*Note that the sample of people voiced involved young men and women from different backgrounds and lifestyles throughout Cairo and other surrounding territories.
I asked the young men this simple question, “In your opinion as a guy, why do men harass women?”
“The answer is unknown”
“Increased libido coming from the conflict between our inner religious concepts and the changes affecting the society, movies, fashion and things like that”
“Because they (men) see you (women) as objects for their own desire, you’re not a person who he can communicate with; he wants to use you to fulfil his sexual desire”
“I think that men who do this are either on drugs, have sexual or psychological problems”
“Oppression, both social and economic, which results in sexual oppression as well. You can add the feeling of superiority in terms of masculinity, also a result of oppression in general.”
“They’re sexually frustrated”
“Because we are a generation of children who grew up seeing parents walk into a store with a sign saying ‘don’t touch’, yet they insist on touching everything! Children should be raised to learn that if it is not yours, you should not touch it, and add a slap on the wrist so he/she won’t forget. My point is as humans, we are all born with the curiosity to touch and grab what we like, but it is good upbringing that teaches us not to touch something that’s not ours without permission”
“Because some of them see women as objects to be admired (curves, skin…etc.) as opposed to them being humans. Basically what makes me different is that I was raised properly and mostly by my mom and grandmother so I came to appreciate women and that they’re not objects to whistle at or satisfy our sexual hunger with.”
“I think the most common reason is that people can’t afford marriage nowadays because of the bad conditions the country’s going through so they are just taking out their sexual frustration. And also, that people here are uneducated even if they go to school and some weren’t raised well at home. They have parental problems.”
“Mainly sexual desires but some do it to show priority like “I’m the male” something along those lines. Sexual frustration does worse things to people.”
“There’s no precise reason. Some people just have animal instincts”
Then I asked the young women to describe their worst (one that stands out clearly in their memories) sexual harassment experience.
I shall start with my own story:
“We were heading to a funeral reception, both my teen-self and my mother clad in black. We were walking down a street in the elite side of Mohandessin. Then this small cart pulled by poor donkey and driven by a bunch of kids no older than 7 passed by us, they moved in real close to me, I was stuck between them and a car. One of them stretched out and grabbed my butt. I was shocked, they rode away screeching with glee. After that my mother pulled me close and told me to never mention this incident to anyone!”
“I was walking around getting breakfast from a buffet at a hotel on vacation and this bastard passed next to me and he made kissy sounds next to my ear and I was about to smash the plate over his head but contained myself cause what would you say you know. Araf society!”
“It was a normal work day. I got off the university bus at the stop at which I always get off. I was waiting for my parents to come pick me up. I waited for 10mins and not a single car, taxi or motorcycle went by without honking, whistling and/or shouting something inappropriate at me. I continued to wait, standing at the side walk about 10 meters away from a police checkpoint. Out of nowhere, I find little stones being thrown at me by a very loud and seemingly drunk/high man who was walking behind me. I ran to the other side of the street and soon got picked up from there. What shocked me at the time wasn’t the behaviour of the man himself. It was the fact that not one policeman from the checkpoint came to help.”
“There was a time when I was visiting Sultan Hassan mosque downtown with a veiled female friend and a group of 3 policemen sitting right outside the external gates started making passes at us quite loud and shamelessly. I was surprised at the irony of the situation. The police (the supposed icon of civilized behaviour) was exhibiting completely uncivilized behaviour themselves… and outside a mosque!”
“One time I was in my car on my way to a wedding with both my parents and there was a truck of construction workers, I think, I heard the most disgusting things and their physical reactions were abhorrent and all the while both my parents were in the car with me…”
“Just today, I saw a central security officer and a police soldier kept staring at this veiled girl’s ass and harassed her with the vilest language ever, until the girl started to cry!”
“Once a friend of mine borrowed my car; unfortunately, whilst driving the car’s battery died. She suddenly found herself attacked by young men who started to rock the car, use foul language, lick the glass, use offensive sign language and even provided some indecent exposure. No one tried to help her! She tried to start the car several times until finally it miraculously did!”
“My career gets me to deal with lots of people and hear many stories. The one that stands out in my memory would be the time I met a lady who told me a story about a young girl who decided to take a taxi home, but ended up being kidnapped and raped by the driver. When she finally got home her family decided to kill her (for their honour). She ran away, a neighbour – the lady telling the story – took her in.”
“I was in prep school and we were walking home from the mall. I remember it was winter and my friend was wearing a long coat. A man passed by us quickly on her side, she suddenly stopped with a look of bewilderment on her face. By the time we both turned around he had started running down the street. She broke down and started crying, she told me he had groped her privates from the front. I couldn’t understand why he did that. We were just children. I couldn’t stop thinking what if it was me that had been on his side of the road. I didn’t want to walk the streets any more. I remember well that the street was filled with people, no one stood up for her or helped us”
“When I was in college, I had just left the university bus. It was 3 pm. Then someone grabbed my butt! I turned round and found a kid no older than 11! I couldn’t hit him so I screamed; a couple of boys from my uni saw me and started running after him. They caught him, I left. I held in the tears till I got back home. I was scared. I don’t know what they did to him. But I do know if we weren’t colleagues in the same university, they wouldn’t have helped me. I know this from life’s experience in this country”
“A friend of mine went through a terrible experience during her first year in college. She was attending a university concert with friends, you know those moments when you get separated all of a sudden from your bunch? Well that happened to her. She lost them and while trying to find them she was suddenly attacked by two boys, one grabbed her privates from the front and the other from the back, when they were done groping they left. She told me during the attack, she looked up and their eyes met, his were blankly staring back at her, it was like he wasn’t human. Through that stare she saw it; it was like he was telling her; you’re nothing….”
Have these stories affected your opinion about sexual harassment? Do you have an opinion or story you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments or send us an email on [email protected]