Egyptian policeman tries to protect female reporter from thugs during protest June 2011 (Mohamed Omar, EPA / Landov)
This week my friend Rabab in Cairo reports that widespread sexual harassment has continued in Egypt since the revolution, despite groups of men forming around females to try to protect them at times, like at a recent demonstration this week.
The US has never been immune to degradation of women either, and comments by elected officials like Rep. Todd Akin (Rep-Kansas) this week about "legitimate rape" and his statement that women rarely get pregnant from rape only show how far our own country has to go. Fortunately, his comments have been repudiated this week by most, including many in his own political party.
But as I head to Egypt in a few weeks to learn more, I am looking for examples of strategies Egyptians are engaging in to try to change all that. This week I found one such group. Its called Harassmap and is an organization that encourages women to immediately report all forms of sexual harassment (even rating the level of attack), and then showing these incidents on a map. In this way, a bright light is put on the extent and severity of the problem. In so doing, the organization hopes it will begin to alert women to high danger spots, help reduce the feeling of resignation that nothing can be done, and help increase reporting and eventual punishment and reduction of the harassment.
It has been often said that "Women hold up half the sky", as Nicholas Kristoff popularized in his compelling book Half the Sky in which he catalogs the countless examples of the essential and equally powerful contribution women make to humankind. Yet its tough to hold up the sky when someone is grabbing at your pants. In fact, men don't stand for it.
And neither will women.
Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.