17.2.11

Winter's women

As the world celebrated the revolution in Egypt, American CBS correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by in a mob in Tahrir square.

At best this could have been the only attack of its kind. Brutal, as it has been described, we could “hope” that this occurred for some convoluted reasoning based on her being a foreign journalist. However she is a female foreign journalist and the female is what the mob saw when they sought her out.

The question arises, how many other women may have fallen victim to such assaults in these times of euphoria. In a country where 80% of women polled report having been sexually harassed, where the police are not trusted and are perpetrators of crimes against women - how many women may now, in silence, be regretting having stood side by side with their men after having suffered no less than anyone else under Mubarak?

Reports described the protests as “a ‘new Egypt,’ with strict social customs casually cast aside ... Young women in jeans and tank tops smoked in public, standing next to bearded Islamists who didn't bat an eye. Men and women mingled freely, unusual for a society where gender segregation in public is still common.” 

It is hoped that the winter revolution marks the beginning of change. However will this change include women? 

The individual tales, which when told, illustrate the story of Mubarak’s regime can easily exclude the experiences of women. The discussion of political prisoners and opposition activists may be recited in gender neutral or masculine terms obscuring the gendered experience of Mubarak’s regime. This regime that created or perpetuated a society where it is acceptable for such a percentage of women to be harassed and abused in public, where women’s political and social representation is still low despite the regime’s progressive rhetoric regarding women's rights.

Already, the army has begun baring its teeth and the Muslim brotherhood contradicting themselves. The committee charged with amending Egypt's constitution has been accused of “marginalising female legal experts." The history of Egypt’s revolution can be very easy written to exclude the women who - as political and social activists, as protesters in the demonstrations and as the millions of women who stayed at home - made it possible.


Photograph: M Deghati AP

No comments: