When the Arab Spring hit in early 2011, no one could have guessed what it might have meant for women’s rights in Egypt. But as the country continues to feel its way through a revolution, there is one surprising outcome — several citizen’s groups are now patrolling the streets of Cairo, and taking action against men that perpetrate violence against women.
If anything, the uprising has made violence and harassment against women more visible, say officials, and that’s spurred residents into action. Teenage boys as young as 16 are even joining the patrols. The groups are in response to a culture of government and police inaction, bolstered in part by a former regime that touted that violence against women was a non-issue in Egypt.
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Wonk-y magazine Foreign Policy‘s most recent issue, The Sex Issue, is right up our alley with a cover story article about the how the real war on women is in the Middle East. Author Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian-American writer who was beaten and sexually assaulted by police while protesting in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Her piece, “Why Do They Hate Us?“, is worth a read on its own.
But images used for the piece are also causing controversy: an attractive, naked woman is covered in body paint made to look like a niqab (a body-covering veil), with only her eyes showing. Newsweek‘s Tumblr lauded the images as “powerful,” while a Tumblr blogger who goes by the name That Sassy Arab chastised the magazine: “Nope, newsweek [sic], this is not stunning and powerful, or awesome. This is highly offensive and completely misguided.” Other critiques of the images used by FP, and the article by by Eltahawy hereself, are here, here and here.
What do you think, Frisky readers? [Foreign Policy]
Bringing new meaning to the phrase “before the body gets cold,” Egypt is considering a new law that will allow Egyptian husbands to have sex with their dead wife’s corpse up to six hours after death. But don’t get your panties in a knot, ladies. Wives can have sex with their dead husbands’ corpse as well, because the issue at hand is whether marriage is still in effect after death. (Unless rigor mortis sets in southward, we don’t much see the point.) This very important matter of “farewell intercourse” is just one of many measures Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament is considering; the others are not so what-the-fuck as they are human rights abuses. Other laws being considered would restrict women’s access to education and employment and lower the minimum marriage age to 14. Pardon my pun, but those are the real issues here, even if they’re not as sexy as the necrophilia law. [Al-Arabiya; Daily Mail UK]
Sexual assault and the threat of sexual assault are used as a way to control women. Nowhere is that more present, lately, than in Egypt where female protesters have been forced to undergo “virginity tests” administered by soldiers when they are arrested and imprisoned. Yesterday, a Cairo court sided with protester Samira Ibrahim, age 25, who was assaulted with a “virginity test” after she was arrested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in March, and ordered that the military stop forcing its way into women’s bodies. The court’s ruling claimed, “These acts involve deliberate humiliation and intentional insult to women participating in protests.” Keep reading »