April 06, 2008

An Egyptian scene: 1 – Sexual Harassment

Recently, my HH started being annoying in a different way. He has started to be worried about me because I go out alone a lot. He started to be pushy and always offering me a ride whenever he learns that I am alone on the street. He started telling me stories about girls who got raped. I didn’t pay attention neither to his stories nor to his worries. I have always doubted that these stories might be his fantasies. And his worries might be just another way to get a step closer to me. I didn’t pay attention because I believed it might be bad on the street but yet it is still safe.
As a girl in the Egyptian community my history with sexual harassment started as early as I started growing breasts. And as a girl in the Egyptian community my mother taught me to never listen to those dirty comments “bad people” will say. My mother told me whatever happens, keep on walking. It mostly worked fine with me. Even in the few times when I felt really scared I have always found someone appearing from nowhere as a guarding angel. I still remember that day when I was in my way back from school and a group of boys started forming a circle around me and from the blue a giant officer appeared, walked beside me as if he was my own bodyguard and when the boys where gone he was gone too.
As I grew older harassments started to get harsher. Instead of calling me beauty, some guys started calling me sexy. And from sexy they took it to sex. I know this might be shocking but Egyptian men don’t stop at the point of calling a woman a beauty or even sexy. They don’t stop at the point of complementing her body, or even describing that body in a dirty way. Our dear Egyptian sex-maniacs had taken this a step further and they actually say dirty things in a dirty way in public. (I can’t have proper words to describe such kinds of harassments but imagine a guy who is looking straight into your eyes and telling you how he would like to “DO” you)
I kept my mother’s advice and I kept ignoring. I even elaborated on this trick and I started walking in zigzags to avoid walking on the same side with men. I covered up and I actually walk like the Nazi army. I have a restrict policy about using public transportation “I DON’T USE IT”. And when I felt the circle is tightening and nothing really is working I stopped going out.
But as I said before, as an Egyptian female in the Egyptian community I knew the picture was bad but I still believed it was safe as those sex-maniacs never crossed the bad mouthing point. I admit that there were a couple of tries to touch but a couple of tries to touch out of thousands of dirty talks is a percentage that can be neglected.
Today my whole view about that Egyptian scene has changed. Today was just another day when I couldn’t find an excuse to keep at home and I had to go bring some stuff with my cousin. We did and we decided to walk for a while.(as far as I can remember it is not against constitution to go for a walk!) It was nice, only few harmless comments which Egyptian girls are well trained to ignore. Then something different happened. A guy who is 40-50 years old started following us. He started off the same way his siblings do. At first it was only words, dirty words that started getting dirtier. Then he started addressing me and asking me to do him things. So, I told my cousin to hurry up as I spotted a couple walking ahead of us and for me they were the safe shore. But when we started walking faster, he started walking faster. And I almost felt his dirty breath on my back. My cousin turned yellow and she started holding onto my hands. And she was a minute away of having a panic attack. At this very point I decided it was time to feed the beast inside me. I asked my cousin to stay where she is and I turned to face that guy. I yelled at him. He first stared at me with astonishment and trying to keep saying his dirty words asking me to do him dirty things so I took one step forward yelling at him. He ran and I started chasing him. He ran like a rat with his little tail. He stopped middle way re-thinking his position and I made myself clear by taking one more step forward and yelling one more time. And that was when he disappeared.
I got back to my scared cousin who was still in shock, not only because of what that man did but because of how I reacted. I told her that in such situations a girl should never get scared. Whenever in a similar situation always know that he is scared more than you are. He is just a thief who is trying to steal something. Treat him like a barking dog because he is one. And always keep on your way.
I knew the picture wasn’t that bad when I saw a car that stopped by and the driver kept an eye to check if we managed. I knew that the scene might have hope in the couple who were walking ahead of us. I would have felt safe if that car driver got off his car and acted the same way my giant officer guarding angel acted. But seems that back then I had a guarding angel because I was young and now I am old enough to guard myself.
I am fine, if any of you wondered. But I just can’t stop thinking about Egypt. I just can’t stop thinking about the future. We are really moving from worse to worst. This time I had the courage to yell and it was only one bad guy. What if there were two of them. What if it was a group? What were going to be my chances of winning?
There are multiple laws against sexual harassment in Egypt. But none is really effective because the sanctions are really lame. And the process of proving the harassment is almost impossible and humiliating. Not to mention that the woman might be exposed to other harassments from the law enforcers (yeah, bad people are everywhere).
I have been thinking of writing about my dreams for Egypt. I have always joked that I wanted to rule Egypt for three months and I can change Egypt completely if I ruled for a year. And I don’t think this is impossible. Because we can change Egypt if we put law into action, if we changed the laws and enforced them on every Egyptian without exception we will have a better Egypt. We can have Egypt free of sexual harassment if we put a law to punish whomever who sexually harass a woman by cutting off his penis. (Yes you have read it right)
My other cousin told me a nice story about the Ukrainians (ex soviets, God bless the old red giant). She was there on a business trip and she noticed that everyone pays the bus ticket promptly without a faire collector and as this is not the case back home she joked that if this was ever the case in Egypt the bus company would have went bankrupt because none was ever to pay. They replied, that they were used to do this since the WWII. As back then when all the men went to war, having someone to collect tickets in a bus was a luxury that the government couldn’t afford. So the rule was set, that whoever got into the bus pays. And if anyone to be caught without a ticket he will be punished. My cousin laughed and said and what’s new. He will simply pay the fine. They laughed and replied, no the punishment wasn’t a fine the punishment was a bullet.
I personally don’t believe that Egyptians will ever change by paying huge fines. Egypt won’t change if we placed people behind bars. We can only change Egypt if we punished those who break the rules by extreme punishments. Punishments that take place in public television to make sure everyone knows it is for real. If the word got spread on the street that whoever gets his penis out rubbing it asking a girl to fix him and sallow will be punished by cutting off this very little piece of meat, I am sure men will think twice.
If you really want to save Egypt, go to the extreme.
That was Shimaa Gamal reporting about one of the Egyptian scenes.
Over and Out
I feel disgusted


LiL^OrioN said...

oh goodness, thank god you're okay. you should take up some martial art to defend yourself just in case yelling doesn't work.

but insha'Allah, from what i remember, if we recite the 3 "Qul", we'd be safe from most danger.

over in Singapore, it's pretty much safe. because men don't dare to come near you. women are protected under the women charter, and yes, punishment are truly harsh in singapore, regardless your race, religion or nationality.

i still remembered hearing the case of michael fay. he was an american who vandalised cars while studying. and it made a big hoo-haa because he was canned despite pleas from the american government.


it's quite sad to here that Eygpt isn't as safe as i thought it would be, the fact that there are many muslims there (is there? middle eastern counties should have a lot of muslims right?) female muslims have a higher status and rights in Islam, right?

times are changing, so maybe, hopefully, things would be better in the future. but for now, i think it's best i take up martial art. *grinz*

suddenly i feel all sooooo feminist-ish. LOL!

you're in my prayer always,
may He keep you safe all the time,
haz. =)

Sherif said...

Shimaa, I like your method in writing your being very courageous and bold. I like your taste too.
To be objective, I think the scene is too exaggerated. Simply one can't imagine that Egypt is totally engrossed in sexual harassment.

Yet, things have to be referred to their real causes. Why does this happen in the first place?

No panacea or simple short cut. Sex is still a need, same like any other thing. No way to satisfy this need easily, especially these days. Now every instance invokes sex; clips, songs, writings, novels, movies...whatever. I don't think I'll go too far if I say we like to talk about it. It surrounds us everywhere like air. At the same time all are craving to it, but no solution.

When I say all I mean girls before boys too. Most are talking about this seemingly forbidden area. But this is not the point. Things could not be managed by punishment. Cutting some peoples' genitals will never solve the problem. It won't stop it either.
Don't you have desire yourself? How can you satisfy it in a reasonable and acceptable way?

Now we stumble with our traditions, religions and cultures. New fatwas tell about allowing kisses between girls and boys. They think it mitigates these desires as long as marriage is not affordable between young people. Yet, they ignore that this will never be the end of the story. It is not enough to look at a turkey on a picture when you are hungry. Options after options are suggested in vain and definitely execution is not a solution.

Accepting fewer requirements might help young people get married. Enough with a studio, essential furniture and appliances, affordable wedding ring..

Instead of thinking problems we need to think solutions. Laceration wouldn't work. Again try to answer the very critical question… Don't you have desire yourself? How can you satisfy it in a reasonable and acceptable way, I mean traditionally, culturally and religiously?

Very critical and interesting post.

Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello my dear Haz
I will take into consideration the martial art courses ;) but don’t worry about me, I know a couple of kicks that will sure buy me a couple of minutes to run :)
I depend on God for keeping me safe on the street. May be it is not that dangerous on the street here in Egypt. I have written this post under the influence of my shock and rage. I will still go out alone and enjoy my walks, I will just keep alerted.
Actually this harassment thing has nothing to do with religion. We are people of faith in Egypt. The majority is Muslims and the rest are Christians. Both religions are against sexual harassment. It is moral and cultural related. Though religion, culture and morals are supposed to faces of the same coin but here in Egypt due to some socio-economic problems the moral side isn’t doing well. The moral side is degrading in Egypt. I know that the scene might not be as dark as I have described it in the post, I still go out alone and I am still safe, but I was kind of blowing the whistle that things aren’t the same way it used to be and a measure should be taken to protect the safety of the streets.
I am a dreamer, I keep dreaming for myself and while doing so I dream for my country. I want my country to be the best place in the world. I pray that things will be better in the near future and law will always rule in Egypt.
Thanks for your prayers and your support

Be well always my dear friend


Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello my dear Sherif
May be the post is a bit exaggerating because I have written in the heat of shock and rage. But yet, sexual harassment is turning to be a phenomenon. I am a female and I am the best thermometer to check on the heat in that subject. Things are getting worse. Some would undermine words and don’t put them under the sexual harassment category but believe me it is a kind of sexual harassment. Imposing sex this way on a passing by woman is harassment. And the fact is more and more Egyptian men are getting engaged in such an action. And the shocking new is it is not the youth who are engaging in such a disgraceful action it is the supposed to be elder and wise. Men my dad’s age, who are married with kids and probably grandchildren, are making passes at me everywhere.
I have even put men into categories, the category that will look and pass without a comment. Next category those who will look comment and last the men who would try to touch or even steal a touch if in a crowded place. The last category is mostly of men who are old and married. The first category is men my age who are probably single, they just look, burn the woman with their staring and keep on their way. The class that will look and comment are usually teenagers, or middle aged men with modest education. Then at last the category of old men, the worst category ever. They will look, talk and dare to touch.
According to my classification, the more experienced than man is with sex the dirtier his comments and the braver he attempts to harass a woman. I agree sex is a need. And to answer your question yes it happens that I have that need too just like any normal person. But because for me sex is a need that I have never satisfied it never turned to be a repetitive urge. Just like my need to try an exotic dish. I could feel it whenever I am hungry but as far as I have never tasted it I would never know what I really need. I will only have the repetitive urge to eat that dish if I tried it. If I knew what it is about and how good it will be. That’s why most of the virgins or semi-virgins stop at the line of look, talk but dare not touch. Only those who knows how good the dish is dare to try.
I have desire myself but I dare not go touch people in the street because I am human and humans aren’t driven by their desires. I am human and that’s why I know how to control my desire. And because I am human and God knows I can control this desire God will punish those who won’t control it.
I agree maybe in our community and under the rules of our religions and traditions people can’t have an easy way to satisfy sexual needs. But yet I disagree that these sexual needs are the reason behind all these shameful acts. Being deprived from sex isn’t a reason to harass someone and if this is the only reason for harassments why married men, who are supposed to have a safe access to sex, still harass women.
Personally, I don’t like putting sex as the only thing that motivates people to do things. And I don’t like to give the criminals as excuse. There is no excuse for a man to impose sex on a woman who isn’t welling to do it. There is no excuse for a man to abuse his authority, physical power or social position to take what’s not his lawful right.
And believe me, it might sound harsh but cutting off one man’s genitals would make the others think twice before approaching a woman. The same way cutting off the thief’s had would make everyone think twice before stealing.
I personally believe that sex is the test that separates humans from animals. Those who pass that test are men and women those who fail it are just males and females walking on two instead of four.
I will be waiting for your interpretation about my categories. And if you think my analysis is right. And I posing your question back again, if sex is that important how to satisfy it in a reasonable and acceptable way traditionally, culturally and religiously?
Your comments are really enriching my thought-less thoughts
Thank you
Your’s Shimaa

Sherif said...

Dear Shimaa

I like scientific approaches to any problem, hence your categorization. My opinions might look little frank and clear this time so forgive this transparency as the whole thing can not be just briefed into a short paragraph.

I can mail you, if you don't mind, stunning situations that need little reflection before coming to conclusions.

Vulgar abuses are introduced by any of your categories, whether they are singles, teenagers or old men. But notice, I've said vulgar. Because polite and educated people, which you call humans, have other approaches and access to sex.

What you call for is never mentioned even in the shari3a. You maybe right when you say need is not an excuse for abuses but I stress on that this is cause rather than reason. And harassment is regrettably the effect. If you eliminate or mitigate causes, you'll sure prevent the effects.

Now that we zealously or stubbornly want to apply shari3a without nurturing for good ways or examples or even ignoring the contest where shari3a has been found is like hitting our heads against the wall. We overlook the ample availability of sex in the first age of Islam. Bondmaids, captive girls from conquests and invasions aside from free women.. all these constituted a whole market where every man, young or old, could find what he needs.

On the other hand, you can't tell because you don't try something that you don't see what it tastes. My young lady, hunger is hunger.. it is something by instinct.

There are very stringent requirements and conditions to apply shari3a, and especially adultery is very hard, if not impossible, to witness by four people.

We can't apply rules away from their contest. Omar El Khalifa asked one of his rulers appointed to Yemen how he is going to rule he said by Koran and Suna, then Omar asked what if you find a thief, he said I'll cut off his hand then Omar concluded: then if this man is hungry, I'll cut off your hand. This is how one of the eminent pioneers in Islam understands Islam.

One last question, are you veiled?

Best regards

Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello My Dear Sherif

I will first answer your question, yes I am veiled :)
As for the rest of your comment, it needs a big cup of coffee to find proper reply. It is too latenow so excuse me, I will reply on that later isa.


Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello Again Sherif
Though I am still blue but I know I have kept you waiting for long. Personally I never call for applying Sharia. I am a law person. I don’t mind if that law is based on Sharia. But what is always important to me is to enforce law.
Maybe my suggestion to cut abuser genitals was a bet cruel, but yet if you called for applying Sharia these guys should be punished by “7a2 el 7araba”. I will go for that one : as it is even harsher.
Hunger is hunger, I agree. But when you are hungry you can go for a loaf of bread or a can of caviar. How would you long for caviar if you’ve never tried it?
I can’t agree that there weren’t sexual abuses in the early Islamic era because there was abundance of sexual mates. I can’t agree on degrading men and women to be just animals seeking sex. Sex isn’t supposed to be a pure desire. Humans are the only creatures, along with dolphins, which have sex as a sort of entertainment. So as far as we do it with conscious we can control it with the very same conscious. The solution isn’t free sex, or simplifying marriages because the problem was never sex, the problem is in morals. Find a way to get morals back into heads and you will have safe streets.
If men have nothing to worry about but sex, I sincerely wish they all become impotent. The human who let a desire lead his life doesn’t deserve to be human and doesn’t deserve to enjoy fulfilling his desire anyway.

Wild at Heart said...

Dear Shimaa
Lucky me to come across your blog! I even feel that I know you personally already!
Any comment I randomly post now wouldn't do it justice...I'll add another one but I just want to raise my hat for you :D

Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello Wild at Heart
I am really flattered; thank you very much for your words.
Just come back often :)
Thanks for passing by

Wild at Heart said...

Hello, again :)
I have decided that sexual harassment will be the issue I fight until the day I die. So, I just wanted to tell you that if any similar thing should happen, especially if you have company (a witness), do NOT hesitate to catch the guy and drag him to the police station, just like Noha Roshdy did. I know this depends on:
1) Having a witness.
2) Having courageous men around to catch the guy (علماً إن الرجالة ماتوا في الحرب).
3) Not seeing much worse atrocities in the police station! Not necessarily against you, but against other people (please check my blog). I think corrupt policemen somewhat get scared when you tell them clearly that you know the law, you know your rights, and you want justice to be done.
Still, do not give up on the hope that at least one out of four people in the street, policemen, attorneys, judges are fair, and will punish the perpetrator. Law No. 306 punishes verbal sexual harassment by fining or by one-month imprisonment-of course it does not match the hurt done, but at least he gets punished. But if he doesn't get punished, what would he do? He would just repeat it again and again.
Be sure my dear that I will 'abahdelo' and call the police if such thing ever happens to me again, no matter the circumstances. Take care.