On Tuesday June 21st, Nazra for feminist studies in co-operation with HarassMap, hosted a number of activists and individuals who tweeted (using the hastag: #EndSH) and blogged on Monday June 20th against sexual harassment and gender-based violence in Egypt (Here’s a collection of blog posts from the June 20th campaign.)
The event was part of the “Things that have never been said” initiative. The initiative was launched by Nazra in May 2011. Through this initiative, we are trying to create a safe zone for those who are concerned with gender and sexuality issues in Egypt so they may freely add their voices to such controversial topics.
The “Blogging day against sexual harassment in Egypt” started as an initiative by online activists who were trying to put an end to all sorts of gender-based violence in Egypt . HarassMap was the first to join the initiative and then Nazra offered not only to join but also to host the post-blogging day open discussion.
Nazra’s plan was to try to work on analyzing the blog posts, the tweets and to come out with a clear and concrete vision of what we should be doing after tweeting and blogging against sexual harassment.
In addition to the media attention that was targeting the event, we can say that one of the outcomes of the discussion was not only the number of activists and bloggers who were dedicated to the blogging initiative and Nazra’s event but also how individuals who may not have a real interest in women or gender-related topics decided to show up, express their thoughts and share their own experiences. Opinions and experiences that may not have otherwise been shared.
We had women who came to share, maybe for the first time, their stories with sexual harassment. We also had men who came to support, defend and offer help. The best outcome of the day was how we managed to make sexual harassment not just a private incident that’s best kept a secret but rather, we made sexual harassment a socially and culturally structured act that needs to be analyzed in a way that will put an end to it.
One of the main conclusions that we reached by the end of the open- discussion is that sexual harrasment should not just be perceived in Egypt as a way in which men express their sexual frustration and needs. Rather, sexual harassment in Egypt seems to reflect how men perceive women sexually. Men tend to think of themselves as superior to women.
In general, the day was a success to a great extent but it also shed more light on a great indicator of a more serious problem. While sexual harassment has become an issue that we can talk about more openly, the traditional discourse tends to keep presenting women’s sexuality as something owned by men that should be protected for the sake of the family’s honour. On the other hand, other sorts of gender-based violence like marital rape continue to be taboo as it stands against the power of men over women’s bodies.
To learn more about Harassmap and the blogging against sexual harassment initiative:
Here’s the Facebook fan page in support of the #EndSH campaign: