When Sexual Harassment Becomes a Barrier to Development
Most recent reports on sexual harassment in Egypt draw a dim picture of women’s status not only in that country, but also in most parts of the region. Specifically, a recent study by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women revealed that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the past year, primarily in the form of physical harassment. A recent public opinion survey conducted by the Egyptian National Council for Women (ENCW), which interviewed 13,500 women across the country, showed that 85 percent of Egyptian women agree sexual harassment is the most urgent problem facing women and girls in transitional Egypt, despite the prevailing political and social instability in the country. Looking closely at these statistics, it is evident that sexual harassment is becoming not only a repugnant social phenomenon or political tool used by the regime to suppress women’s participation in the political and public spheres; it is also progressively becoming a barrier for women to play an active role in society and enjoy equal citizenship rights in their own country. Most importantly, harassment has become an impediment for both economic and social development in the country—a critical issue that requires immediate attention from policymakers, legislators, and society as a whole.