A long battle ahead for Egyptian women

Jumanah Younis writes:

A demonstration commemorating International Women’s Day was attacked on Tuesday afternoon in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. More than 200 men charged on the women – forcing some to the ground, dragging others out of the crowd, groping and sexually harassing them as police and military figures stood by and failed to act.

It was a shocking wake-up call. Even in Tahrir Square, the symbol of Egypt’s newfound freedom, it seems that it’s going to take much more than a revolution to overhaul the deep-seated misogyny that some Egyptian men so freely and openly impose on the country’s female population.

The female demonstrators – myself among them – had been protesting against Egypt’s chronic sexual harassment problem, against the many barriers women face in public life, and against the pervasive conservatism that curtails the freedom of women in society at large. The women chanted slogans that had been used in the revolution itself, calling for freedom, justice and equality. But their demonstration quickly attracted a counter-protest.

The women’s chants calling for an “Egypt for all Egyptians” were drowned out by retaliations such as “No to freedom!” shouted by the opposing group. The men charged at the female protesters, who had been standing on a raised platform in the middle of Tahrir Square, and shouted: “Get out of here.”

Fatma Naib adds:

On International Women’s Day, women rights activists in Egypt called for a one million women march at Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

I arrived in Tahrir around 2pm local time [12GMT] on Tuesday March 8, but was surprised to see the sheer volume of men who outnumbered the women, as if it was International Men’s Day!

However, as the crowd trickled in, it grew into hundreds but very far from the planned one million!

Ironically, the few women, I came across in the beginning, were oblivious of the fact that it was a women’s day march.

After negotiating through the maddening crowd I finally managed to meet Nehad Abo Alomsan, the organiser of the march.

Nehad, also the chair for Egyptian centre for women’s right, explained the concept behind the event, “We marked the celebration to salute all the martyrs, men and women, and to remind the society of the role the women played during the revolution.”

“Women stood shoulder to shoulder by the men, but post-revolution when it came to the decision-making process they were excluded.”

Emphasising the importance of participation of women in any democratic transition, Nehad expressed her disappointment at the lack of female experts in the constitutional committee.

“We just want to draw the attention of the decision makers and appeal to the women that if they keep silent now then they will lose everything. The involvement of women is not a demand it’s a principle,” she said.

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