A group of American University in Cairo (AUC) professors agreed that women’s status in Egypt hasn’t deteriorated much since Islamists’ took power.
In a roundtable held on Tuesday at the AUC, political science professor Rabab El-Mahdi stated that Egyptians’ frustration stems from the fact that women’s status didn’t improve after the 25 January Revolution.
“The revolution broke out because the people weren’t happy with a lot of things in the country, women’s status included,” El-Mahdi said.
The issue of sexual harassment was widely discussed during the roundtable. Amina Elbendary, assistant professor of Arab and Islamic civilization, stated that sexual harassment is generally a trial to outcast women from the public sphere. El-Mahdi said that sexual harassment needs to be addressed both as a political as well as social tool.
“Sexual terrorisation is a popular tool used during wars and revolutions to scare women,” said Saeed Sadek, a political psychologist. “The reason why it has proliferated lately is that women who never took to the streets in the past are now eager to join protests.”
ElBendary stated that the fact that women are more likely to admit to having been sexually harassed or assaulted, and face their harassers is a positive outcome of the 2011 Revolution.
Sadek blamed the increased prevalence of harassment on the lack of punishment against the harassers. El-Mahdi added that the Ministry of Interior is incapable of repressing harassment since it has been practicing it on citizens for a very long time. (...)
The roundtable participants also discussed the status of women in the new constitution and whether it improved when compared to previous constitutions. Sadek stated that the new constitution failed to reflect the prevailing revolutionary trends in society.
“The revolutionary symbols, especially the female revolutionaries, were absent from the constitution-drafting scene,” said Hani Henry, AUC associate professor and graduate advisor.
El-Mahdi stated that constitutions are not an indicator to measure women’s status in society. “Most constitutions worldwide lack the articles we were looking for in regards to women’s rights,” El-Mahdi said. She added that women’s status stems from the society’s culture and not from constitutions.
“Nevertheless, this constitution, like its predecessors, lacked the gender entry which stresses equal rights of men and women,” El-Mahdi said. She said that the issue has nothing to do with women’s poor representation in the Constituent Assembly which drafted the constitution. “Some women’s mentality is even more masculine than men’s.”
The same approach was adopted when discussing women’s representation in parliament. Elbendary said that when linking women’s status to parliament, the focus shouldn’t be the number of women inside parliament, but their actions. (Daily news Egypt)