“I say when a girl walks about like that, it is a patriotic duty to sexually harass her and a national duty to rape her,” al-Wahsh said on October 19th, during the airing of an Al-Assema Infrad talk show, according to the Independent. “What she allows herself to do constitutes depravity.”
“Girls must must respect themselves so others respect them,” al-Wahsh said.
In response, Egypt’s highest women’s right’s entity – the state National Council for Women – told the Associated Press that the remarks promote rape and violate the Egyptian Constitution.
A 2016 UN factsheet, Report on Violence against Women in Egypt, describes how this constitution, which was adopted in 2014, mentions violence against women in Article 11, “The place of women, motherhood and childhood.”
“The state commits to the protection of women against all forms of violence, and ensures women empowerment to reconcile the duties of a woman toward her family and her work requirements,” the constitution reads.
Other articles also discuss safety and equality: Article 51 states the guaranteed right of dignity, Article 53 forbids discrimination, Article 59 says every person has a right to a secure life, Article 60 says the human body is inviolable, and Article 89 forbids sex trafficking and human trafficking.
The head of the NCW, Maya Morsi, said the council will file complaints against al-Wahsh to the attorney general and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, according to The Tribune. The NY Post further describes how the SCMR asked media outlets not to invite figures who welcome violence against women onto shows.
Al-Wahsh’s comments come after the country has dealt with a significant sexual harassment problem over the last few years. According to Reuters, Cairo is the most dangerous megacity for women. In addition, a 2013 UN Women report says 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have been subjected to sexual harassment: these instances most often occur on the streets.
The report indicates that 93.4 percent of women who asked security forces on the scene for help did not receive assistance. The report further states that 75.7 percent of the respondents wore conservative clothing – attire that does not show the contours of the body and generally has long sleeves. The report concludes that 82.6 percent of the women surveyed did not feel safe on the streets.
This study also surveyed men, who confirmed that the majority of these cases occur on the streets. These men also gave different reasons why women are harassed, including wearing tight clothes, indecent behavior, and putting on makeup in a provocative way.
A few reforms have occurred within the past few years. In 2013, UN Women partnered with nonprofit student organization Enactus to develop sexual awareness campaigns at universities in Egypt. In 2014, Egypt’s new president – Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi – called for new laws that would punish sexual harassment after several women were assaulted during inaugural events, CBS News reports.
In the days of victim-blaming and slut-shaming, it’s important to remember that women still face violence on the streets regardless of the attire they wear, as the UN Women 2013 report confirms. Ripped jeans are not an excuse to harass women–nothing is.
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