Challenging sexual harassment in Egypt

Some experts link in­crease in sexual harassment to what they say is a decline in moral val­ues among young people.

A Facebook photo shows women participating in the anti-harass­ment initiative. (@domiat.anti.harassment)


2017/01/22 Issue: 90 Page: 21


The Arab Weekly
Najwa Dardiri



Cairo - The initiative In Yester­day’s Dresses When the Streets Were Safe aims to challenge the notion that women in Egypt are being sexually harassed because of the way they dress.

Begun by Egyptian activist Hadia Abdel-Fattah and photographer Jihad Saad, the initiative involved taking pictures of women, from a variety of backgrounds, wearing short dresses and exposed shoul­ders as well as women wearing the hijab and what would be consid­ered average attire. The pictures are available on the Facebook page of the anti-harassment initiative, We Won’t Keep Silent on Harass­ment: https://www.facebook.com/ domiat.anti.harassment/.

“I looked for original and shock­ing ideas because I was seeking some depth in my approach to women’s issues. I wanted to create ripples in a still pond,” Abdel-Fat­tah said.

She said she wanted to refute the argument that women’s choice of clothes is what naturally leads to harassment. She had women in the project wear vintage 1960s dresses and walk along streets in Cairo. None who did so were harassed, she said.

Abdel-Fattah said In Yesterday’s Dresses When the Streets Were Safe was started within the context of the UN campaign against gender-based violence but that she and Saad were working independently and self-financed the project.

Abdel-Fattah, 29, previously worked with civil society organi­sations focusing on the rights of women and children.

She pointed out that many wom­en in Egypt choose to be veiled or wear the hijab and that the highest percentage of women being sexu­ally harassed tend to be found in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where many are completely veiled. The project garnered much media at­tention and controversy with oppo­nents saying it encouraged sexual harassment.

“I don’t bother about those who oppose the idea or even those who insult me. These reactions indicate that the initiative succeeded in shocking society and by so doing realised its objective,” Abdel-Fat­tah said. “It exposed the problem and created debate. The important thing is that everyone realises that our clothes are not behind sexual harassment.”

Some experts have linked the in­crease in sexual harassment to what they said was a decline in moral val­ues among young people, rigid re­ligious discourse, frequent viewing of violent films and the widespread use of various degrees of nakedness in advertisements. Others claim the causes were the increasing num­bers of working women and their taste in clothes.

Saad previously turned his lens on violence against women. He did a project using a female model from Cairo wearing make-up designed to look like bruises on her face and body as if she had been a vic­tim of domestic violence. He said he wanted to denounce violence against women from within the family unit.

Abdel-Fattah said In Yesterday’s Dresses When the Streets Were Safe was one of many projects she has lined up related to violence against women.


Najwa Dardiri is an Egyptian writer.


As Printed
MENA Now
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Senior Correspondents:

Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

66 Hammersmith Road

London W14 8UD, UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved