The Egyptian elections delivered a parliament that has one of the lowest rates of female representation in the world. Yet this is the parliament that expresses the political will of the people of Egypt. It may also be one that ignores the social realities of gender and of women’s political participation, says Hania Sholkamy.
Under the banner of “No Spring without Women,” a Lebanese feminist organisation has organized a march in Beirut, as part of the 5th New Arab Woman Forum. The slogan of the march is “Sawa Sawa”, which in this context means “Let’s walk together, let’s make it together”, calling for a Spring that includes both men and women. Before getting the invitation to this march, my mind was already preoccupied with the future of Arab women after the revolutions and how women’s status might be impacted in each of the Arab countries. My concern is: can there be Arab union or organisation to sustain Arab women’s status in the post-revolution era?
Avez-vous remarqué la soudaine disparition des femmes de ce paradoxal printemps arabe depuis qu'il a tourné au vert, la couleur de la victoire islamiste ? C'est à croire que le scénariste n'a prévu pour elles que les larmes, la douleur et les chants funèbres du dernier quart d'heure des despotes. Elles étaient pourtant très comme il faut sur les images des télévisions occidentales et conformes aux canons en vigueur concernant le port vestimentaire.
Despite an increasing feeling of empowerment experienced by many Egyptian women during and after the revolution, they continue to be sexually harassed and abused by men in public on a daily basis, as recent coverage of events in Cairo—from “virginity tests” conducted by the military to male assaults on female protesters—illustrated.
It is a problem that long predates the Arab Spring. In 2008, a survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) found that a staggering 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women were exposed to sexual harassment in Egypt.
Twenty years ago today Algeria’s military-backed government stopped the country’s electoral process, preventing the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) from coming to power and dismantling the Algerian republic – something it had openly promised to do. In context, this was the better of the two bad alternatives available at that moment – interrupting a flawed parliamentary election rather than allowing the reins of power to be taken by fascists who openly proclaimed their opposition to democracy.
Vigilante gangs of ultra-conservative Salafi men have been harassing shop owners and female customers in rural towns around Egypt for “indecent behavior,” according to reports in the Egyptian news media. But when they burst into a beauty salon in the Nile delta town of Benha this week and ordered the women inside to stop what they were doing or face physical punishment, the women struck back, whipping them with their own canes before kicking them out to the street in front of an astonished crowd of onlookers.
An administrative court ruled Tuesday that the Egyptian military had wrongly violated the human rights of female demonstrators by subjecting them to “virginity tests” intended to humiliate them.
The decision was the first to address a scandal arising from one of the military’s first crackdowns on protesters, on March 9, less than a month after it seized power with the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. And the ruling was also the first time since the military takeover that a civilian court has attempted to exert judicial authority over the ruling generals, who have suspended the Constitution and set themselves up as the only source of law.
It began with thousands of people in the Middle East rising up to demand an end to repressive government and a say in their futures.
That spirit of transformation continued throughout the year. The world welcomed the new country of South Sudan, the culmination of a years-long peace process. A global network of activists sprang into action to thwart a policy that threatened Afghan women. The United Nations launched a new agency dedicated to guaranteeing women’s human rights worldwide.
Local human rights watchdogs on Sunday accused the Egyptian military of systematically targeting female political activists, and demanded that Egypt’s military rulers admit to violations committed against demonstrators.
In a joint statement, five human rights organizations accused military rulers of exercising "unprecedented violence against protesters, with the targeting of female activists being a distinctive feature of the proceedings to disperse sit-ins, as depicted in pictures and video clips showing protesters being arrested, beaten, dragged and stripped of their clothes.”