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A woman raises a knife and shouts slogans against then Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and the Brotherhood during a march against sexual harassment and violence against women in Cairo, February 6, 2013. (AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters/Corbis)

In Egypt, 99 Percent of Women Have Been Sexually Harassed

The government recently moved to criminalize sexual harassment

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In the wake of the revolution, life in Egypt seems to be getting even worse for the country's women. At the very least, the revolutionary atmosphere that started with the 2011 Arab Spring protests has done little to change the staggering prevalence of harassment that women there face, says Foreign Policy.

According to a 2013 United Nations study, says FP's Elias Groll, “virtually all Egyptian women have been victims of sexual harassment." A whopping 99.3 percent of the women studied report having been sexually harassed. The most common form of harassment, says Daily News Egypt, citing the same report, was inappropriate touching: 96.5 percent of the women who'd been harassed said they'd been physically assaulted.

The women in the study reported being harassed everywhere, from malls to markets to public transit, and just out on the street. Women were whistled and yelled at, touched and stalked, subjected to sexual innuendo and to men exposing themselves. Nearly half of the women experienced harassment on a daily basis, while 75 percent were harassed at least monthly. The women reported that in the vast majority of cases—84.6 percent—passers-by did nothing to stop the harassment or support the woman.

Just now, however, the Egyptian government has made a move to address harassment. As the Guardian reports, the Egyptian government last week “criminalised sexual harassment for the first time.”

Sexual harassers have been prosecuted on rare occasions in the past in Egypt – but only on vaguer charges of physical assault, and even then the defendants have often been found innocent.

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, the group that released the report detailing Egypt's harassment statistics, said that the law is “very encouraging as it defines “sexual harassment” for the first time in Egypt’s history. This law represents a major step towards achieving safety of Egyptian women and girls in public spaces.”

Whether the new law actually does anything to stop the problem in a country where police are often willing to let sexual harassment slide, says the Guardian, isn't clear.

Sexual harassment is not a problem only in Egypt, of course. Worldwide, “rape culture” continues to enable sexual harassment and assault. In the U.S., one in four women reports being sexually harassed at work, and 65 percent report being harassed on the street. After Elliot Rodger's killing spree just outside of Santa Barbara, Calif., Twitter users congregated around the hashtag #YesAllWomen to share stories of harassment and violence against women.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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