For some women, deciding to live apart from their parents is enough to get them beaten on the side of the road.
Hana, 27, lives in Egypt, a country whose vast majority still believes unmarried women should not leave their parents’ home. According to a UN report, only eight percent of men and approximately a third of all women believe that an unmarried woman has the right to leave her family.
This ideology is where Hana’s problems began.
Hana faced immense pressure to conform to her parents’ standards of what they believe an Egyptian woman’s life should be. Unable to meet their family-dominated expectations, she explained the way they made her feel.
“They just want me to be a normal girl in Egyptian society and be traditional,” she says, “get married, have a family, have kids, don’t work too much . . . I just don’t want my life to be about creating a family . . . I have so many goals that are different. I want a job that I like, to improve myself emotionally and become a better person. I don’t want to have children and it was a shock for my mum.”
Even at 27 years old, Hana’s parents regularly enforced a curfew and locked her out of the house if she came back too late. Unable to live under their restrictions, she moved to downtown Cairo with other young girls who had also left their families.
Hana’s troubles didn’t stop there, though. After just a week away from her parents, her father went to her job to enforce his ideology.
“After a week they came to my work and started to beat me outside the office. My dad was screaming, ‘It’s my daughter, It’s my daughter,’ and then random people in the streets started to beat me with him,” she says.
Hana escaped to a nearby police station but left without pressing charges when an argument erupted between her and her parents.
“In our society, women have to live with their family until they’re married or dead,” she says. “They don’t leave unless they’re going to the president’s home or they’re dead.”
“ . . . I think the bigger problem in Egypt and the Arab region is the huge pressure of conformity. What’s really the issue is parents. How is it going to look, how is it going to affect the family’s reputation? How are you going to appear in front of friend and neighbors?”
“People care about how it appears not actually what is happening.”
Shereen’s report was unique because it took the opinion of men in the region. When people were asked if, “a man who rapes a woman and marries her should not be prosecuted,” 28 percent of men and a staggering 33 percent of women agreed.
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