CAIRO: Several activist groups against sexual harassment stated that violent acts against women in Cairo was reduced on the first day of Eid al-Adha, but increased on the following days after security presence was less prevalent.
“[Sexual] harassment is not a security problem, but rather a societal problem that requires the intervention of many segments of the society to be resolved. Youth movements on streets arrested 20 harassers,” first assistant of the minister of interior Abou Bakr Abdel Karim told Youm7 Sunday.
Eid al-Adha is a four-day Islamic feast, which marks Abraham’s submission to God by offering to sacrifice his son, in which Muslims make animal sacrifices and donate the meat to the poor, and make their own traditional meals in celebration of family gatherings.
But the holiday, as well as other religious and non-religious holidays, has been marred for several years with sexual harassment on streets, as Egyptians spend their time in parks and public venues. In recent years, the epidemic has taken a violent turn with mob sexual assaults and intimidation.
Police urge women to avoid provocative clothes
Ehab Makhlouf, head of the General Administration of Combating Violence Against Women, said in Saturday press statements that young women should avoid “provocative clothes” that “stir men’s enthusiasm.”
The Anti Harassment movement denounced his statement, expressing its surprise that the statement comes from a police official who specializes in combating violence against women.
“His statement also reveals that he did not study reasons for sexual harassment and violence against women before he makes a general call for Egyptian women to observe their clothes,” Anti Harassment said.
On Facebook, the I Will Not Be Silenced Against Harassment page asked Makhlouf to “define provocative clothes” and to “determine who has to the right to identify provocative clothes. It also asked him to determine whether sexual harassment can be called “enthusiasm.”
A U.N. study released in 2013 found that 99.3 percent Egyptian women have been sexually harassed, regardless of their attire, according to the women surveyed.
Police and NGO figures
The Ministry of Interior made press statements about the “decline of sexual harassment” in Eid al-Adha on Saturday, the first day of the feast.
Cairo security directorate announced that “no physical harassment” was reported to the police Saturday, and that the 103 reports it received were all related to verbal harassment.
I Saw Harassment said in a Saturday report that any talk about a “decline of crimes” in downtown Cairo on the first day of the feast only reflects that the significant security presence in the area contributes to the reduction.
Youm7 reported the Moral Investigations police department as saying that it documented 40 cases of sexual harassment in Cairo and Giza Saturday, the vast majority of which were verbal, but the “teen perpetrators” were released because “no victims appeared to report the incidents themselves.”
A security source told Youm7 Monday that 500 sexual harassers were detained during the holiday on incidences of verbal and physical harassment, adding that hotlines and youth movements helped arrest harassers, as well as the pictures and videos of harassers that those movements posted on social media.
On Saturday, I Saw Harassment intervened in 20 cases of verbal harassment and stalking and prevented one attempt of physical harassment in downtown Cairo.
Homeland Without Harassment (HWH,) another pressure group, reported 11 incidents of physical harassment at the Giza Zoo, and said that sexually explicit verbal abuse was in the “hundreds of incidents.” HWH also reported four incidents of mob assaults in Fostat Park Saturday. Next day, the police arrested two harassers at Fostat Park and Giza Zoo registered more than 13 cases of sexual harassment inside it, according to Youm7.
Also on Saturday, Harass Harassers, a group of volunteers who roam streets on holidays to prevent sexual harassment, intervened in 15 cases on Qasr el-Nil Bridge and the vicinity of the Cairo Opera House, as well as 50 cases of verbal harassment.
On Sunday, I Saw Harassment, whose field work was from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. in downtown Cairo, noted that security deployment was noticeably less than Saturday. It reported one case of mass harassment, eight incidents of physical abuse and 25 incidents of verbal harassment.
Harass Harassers intervened in 10 cases of physical harassment on October Bridge, but their work was interrupted when two of their volunteers were arrested for a few hours after policemen allegedly attacked them to protect sexual harassers.
On Monday, I Saw Harassment intervened in three incidents of mob assaults, seven physical harassment cases, and 64 incidents verbal abuse in downtown Cairo. Harass Harassers intervened in 42 cases of physical harassment and one case of mob harassment and “dozens of verbal harassment incidents.”
Saturday through Monday, the Imprint Movement and Anti Harassment Movement caught 22 alleged sexual harassers and handed them over to the police for legal proceedings, and caught 12 others but the victims refused to report them.
Imprint noted on its Facebook page that its volunteers were well received by citizens and were “met with interest.”
The volunteers of the anti-harassment groups say in their description of mission, among other goals, that their field intervention is “peaceful,” aiming primarily to stop incidents of sexual harassment they witness, and to hand perpetrators over to the police when possible.
Harass Harassers, however, sprays the clothes of men caught in the act with “I am a harasser” in a more hands-on approach.