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I was Sexually Harassed in Cairo, but…

The recent data on sexual harassment, attacks, rapes, and death of women in Egypt is deeply disturbing. It is as though the Islamist ascendency has awakened the fury against women under the thin patina of civilization. The recent UN report (see the NY Times article by Bruni that I recently posted on Facebook) estimates harassment at 93%+.* Ninety women journalists were sexually harassed in the last few months. In The Cairo Codex (West Hills Press, to be released 8/13), I described my own earlier incident through the experience of my protagonist, anthropologist Justine Jenner:

“…By the time she reached the Roman aqueduct, cutting east through the city, the town was waking up. Bean pots on rollers moved into the side streets; bakers raised their storefronts, displaying layers of Egyptian baladi bread that          resembles pita. Young men on bicycles took to the streets.

About a mile from the hotel, she stopped. In this part of the city, new or maintenance construction gave way to houses and stores scarred by vehicle exhaust crumbling around the edges, pressed together like crowded children          scrambling for a ball.

Turning away from the Nile, Justine stood for a moment to get her bearings, bending over, hands on her thighs, stretching her back. A hand, not her own, reached under her from behind, firmly stroking between her legs then             withdrawing as quickly as it had arrived. A wave of terror shot through her stomach and chest. For a moment, she couldn’t believe what she’d felt. She swung around to see a stooped man in a gray kaftan and woolen scarf limping             swiftly away.

She could have caught him easily, but what would she say? What would  she do? Would the authorities pay her any mind? Not in Egypt. She turned and ran back to the hotel, stumbling occasionally, shaken by the violation.”

However—and this is a fierce however—that is not my usual experience of Egypt. I have always found Egypt safe, where I could venture into side streets, Tahrir Square, go out in the evenings with other women. So what has happened? What is different?

* I have had questions about UN estimates in the past, including their projection that 95% of Egyptian women have had a clictorectomy.



This entry was posted on Sunday, July 21st, 2013 at 11:26 am and is filed under Articles, Egypt, Fiction, Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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