Last week I read a harrowing tale from a brave British journalist that had travelled to Egypt to report on the state of affairs over there. She was aiming to report on the social problems relating to female human rights and was in Cairo when she got attacked by a group of men and was publicly abused. I would strongly encourage everybody to read her account here: http://natashajsmith.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/please-god-please-make-it-stop/
But aside from a deep feeling of sorrow for this girl, I found myself completely angered by the injustice she had to suffer just because she was female. And what’s worse, this behaviour is considered somewhat of a norm in Egypt. Women in Egypt have to continually suffer this gross invasion of personal space and complete dismissal of their human rights, when men decide to grope and leer whenever a female walks by.
Britain are by no means perfect when it comes to equality; with more men still representing the country in government than women and the wage gap between men and women still worryingly high, we still have a long way to go. But our health and our safety, our privacy and security, are all a given and we rarely have to worry about those rights being encroached upon. It’s appalling then, that while we are worrying about our economic and professional prosperity as women, that just 2000 miles away women are actually living in fear every day.
In April 2012, the National Council for Women (NCW) in Egypt had to protest against potential sex laws that would massively impinge upon women’s basic human rights. The two laws, one which would lower the age for marriage and another which would allow a husband to have sex with his dead wife for up to 6 hours after death, caused outrage in Egypt when parliament announced their plans.
These laws would undo all the hard work that women in Egypt have been fighting for up until now. And this is what really grates. Women’s voices are still not being heard.
In the early part of the 19th Century women in the UK joined their American sisters into battle; the battle for the vote. The Suffragists and Suffragettes used a variety of different means and methods to get their voices heard, to relay the message that women deserved a say in the way the country operated. It took a lot of time and determination but they saw success when the vote was granted in 1918(UK) and 1920(US). Obviously, this was only the start of women’s fight for equality but women had proven their ability to force changes and shape the way men thought of them. And nearly 100 years on, it seems that these battles are still taking place in other parts of the world.
And in realising this, I have an overwhelming sense of knowing that had I been born in that era, I would have fought on the picket lines and happily participated in hunger strikes for women’s freedom and equality. And yet I feel completely helpless in this modern day revolution of women’s rights that is taking place in Egypt. A war of words from the west will do very little to convince the misogynistic Islamist-dominated parliament in Egypt that they need to make some serious changes, and fast.