CAIRO: As sexual harassment remains a perpetual problem in Egypt, new grassroots campaigns targeting harassers are fighting back, literally.
The latest initiative, called Tie Harassers, aims to counter sexual harassment by tying perpetrators to trees. The initiative was launched by Essam Bashary on March 20 after he witnessed a young teenager grope a young women from behind.
In response, Bashary stopped the teenager and tied him to a tree with the assistance of some locals, although others were calling on him to leave the teenager alone because of his young age.
“Those people should have been tied too, because those who justify sexual harassment help it become even more rampant,” Bashary told The Cairo Post Sunday.
The last thing Bashary knew before leaving the scene was that the teen had called for his family to come get him.
A minor who commits this kind of act should be tied down or put in custody until his family receives him, said Bashary.
“The law hardly applies in these cases,” Bashary continued. “I believe that women should avenge themselves on the spot. If a man allows himself to touch a powerless woman on the street forcibly, then he deserves it.”
“Harass Harassers” is another campaign that calls for “resisting sexual harassment.” The campaign was launched on Facebook in September 2013 and has since posted pictures of men “caught sexually harassing women,” particularly during feasts, where numerous incidents of sexual harassment are reported. The men who are caught in the act are sprayed with “I am a harasser” on their clothes, and their pictures are later posted on the internet.
“We started off by arresting sexual harassers and handing them in to the police, only to realize that they later release them,” Shadi Hussein, co-founder of Harass Harassers, told The Cairo Post Sunday.
The campaign’s target is to spread the culture of rejecting sexual harassment and act as a force of resistance against it, Hussein said.
Whether or not it will make a difference with harassers is uncertain as long as the media directly and indirectly supports sexual harassment and as long as the police are complicit, Hussein added.
The police do not fulfill their duty in most cases and in some cases they engage in sexual harassment themselves, according to Hussein, who said that the campaign detected three policemen harassing women during a feast in August 2013.
Sekina Fouad, adviser to the president on women’s affairs, told ON TV Sunday that a new law would be issued to counter sexual harassment, although she did not specify a time frame.
This announcement comes after a Cairo University female student was sexually harassed on campus March 16, triggering a wide-spread outcry and a condemning statement by the U.N. information office in Cairo on March 19.
TV anchor Tamer Amin said the “belly dancer” outfit of the Cairo University student was the motive for the mob’s sexual harassment, although it does not justify committing such an act. After being attacked on social networking websites, Amin later said his “agitation” over the incident led to his previous statements.
While Tie Harassers and Harass Harassers advocate a more hands-on approach to dealing with sexual harassment, movements and campaigns like Harassmap and I Saw Harassment pursue different approaches.
Founded in 2010, Harassmap dispels “myths” and excuses for sexual harassment through online and mass media campaigns, according to its website.
It dispatches its volunteers to discuss the phenomenon with people in streets and neighborhoods, where they talk to shopkeepers among others to encourage them to take action against sexual harassment by speaking up.
It also maps sexual harassment on its “HarassMap” by crowd sourcing SMS and online reports of incidents. The group is working on research related to sexual harassment and crowd sourcing as a method for data collection.
I Saw Harassment, founded in 2012, was formed by volunteers to document and combat sexual harassment against girls and women by raising awareness, spreading the culture of equality and providing legal and psychological support for women who go through physical violence in public spaces, according to its Facebook page.
A U.N. study released in 2013 found that 99.3 percent Egyptian women have been sexually harassed.