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More security needed on Egypt’s streets, say women’s rights campaigners

By Thomson Reuters Foundation - Nov 18,2017 - Last updated at Nov 18,2017

LONDON — More security is needed on the streets of Cairo to protect women, but both men and women need to push for this to happen and authorities need to prosecute those responsible, campaigners has said.

Iman Bibars, regional director for the social enterprise Ashoka Arab World, which promotes social change, called for men to step up to support women’s rights in Egypt and ensure police and courts can prosecute anyone found to be harassing women.

The calls come after a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of experts in women’s issues last month ranked Cairo, as the world’s most dangerous megacity for women followed by Karachi and Kinshasa while London came out as best.

Bibars said the situation for women in the Egyptian capital had deteriorated since the 2011 Arab Spring, with a weakened economy and high unemployment since the uprising eroding economic opportunities for women.

“We need more security in the streets,” Bibars, who lives in Cairo, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual Trust Conference, which focuses on slavery and women’s empowerment.

“But I don’t think it’s just the role of government. I think it is the role of everyone.” 

Data on violence against women in Cairo is hard to find but 99 per cent of women in Egypt interviewed by the United Nations in 2013 reported sexual harassment, and 47 percent of divorced or separated women reported domestic abuse.

Bibars said she had escorted 29 women to police stations last year to complain of sexual harassment, but no charges were brought in any of these cases because no witnesses could be found to testify against the men.

“It takes a village to protect and empower women. Without the mindset of the community, we cannot do anything,” she said.

Yostina Boules, founder and managing director of Taqa Solutions, a social enterprise that wants to make sustainable energy accessible for all Egyptian poultry farmers, said laws to protect women needed to be enforced.

 

“I would like to see the Egyptian president enforcing the law, making the streets more safe for girls and not just saying that men should hold their hands behind their back when talking to a girl,” she told the conference.

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