Egyptian vigilantes act against attacks on women

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 07, 2012 13:41 hrs

As the country faces a tumultuous transition from authoritarian rule, a number of groups in Egypt are emerging to protect women, who are frequently harassed and threatened on the streets, while police look the other way.

It is a change brought about not just out of concern for women's rights but out of a frustration that the post-revolutionary government still, like the one before, was doing too little to protect its citizens, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

The attacks on women, a problem Egypt has long wrestled with, did not subside after the uprising. They became more visible as even the military was implicated in the assaults, stripping female protesters, threatening others with violence and subjecting activists to virginity tests.

The years of rule of former president Hosni Mubarak, were marked by official apathy, collusion in the assaults on women or empty responses to the attacks, including police round-ups of teenagers at internet cafes for looking at pornography.

"The police did not take harassment seriously. People didn't file complaints. It was always under-reported," said Madiha el-Safty, a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo.

Mubarak's wife, Suzanne, who portrayed herself as a champion of women's rights, pretended the problem hardly existed. As reports of harassment grew in 2008, she said: "Egyptian men always respect Egyptian women."

Egypt's new President, Mohammed Mursi, has presided over two holidays and many activists say there is no sign that the government is paying closer attention to the problem.

However, the work by the citizens groups may be having an effect. Last week, Mursi's spokesman announced that the government had received more than 1000 reports of harassment and said that the President had directed the Interior Ministry to investigate the complaints. (ANI)

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