Women in Egypt feel sexually harassed while walking down the streets and two filmmakers decided to document what it is like to be a female, in this highly repressed African country. The simple act of going out in public can be a dangerous proposition in a country that has become known for it’s violent acts against women, including rape.
One of the most notorious cases is that of CBS correspondent Lara Logan. On the night of February 11, 2011 the journalist was reporting from Cairo’s Tahrir Square — following the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship –, while hundreds of thousands of demonstrators celebrated.
Logan was brutally attacked by a mob of crazed Egyptian men and later on recounted her ordeal, to bring attention to the epidemic of sexual violence against women sweeping the nation. This is just one, of thousands of cases, which have put the most populated country in the Arab world on the map for all the wrong reasons.
To that point, filmmakers Colette Ghunim and Tinne Van Loon set out to make a documentary — titled The People’s Girls — about what it’s really like for a woman to walk on the streets of Cairo. The documentary is a project to examine the very grave issue of sexual harassment in Egypt.
According to a United Nations study, 99.3 percent of women in Egypt feel sexually harassed. Loon says when a woman walks out in public in Egypt, they see her as a “piece of meat” and stare her down in the most inappropriate ways.
In an online video titled Creepers on the Bridge — which has gone viral — Ghunim is seen receiving several of these stares, as she walks alone on a bridge in Cairo. The short film will debut in January and in it, the women speak to three people with different views about sexual harassment in Egypt.
Ghunim — who recently graduated from Northwestern University — told the NY Daily News, the stares she captured in the hidden camera for the online video is an example of what the two filmmakers and most women experience when out in public, no matter what they wear.
“Because we’re both frequently in the street alone, we both experience high levels of stares daily, as well as verbal harassment. It often deters us, like many other women, to walk outside or take public transportation, seeing as we don’t want to deal with the intimidation and anxiety.”
Van Loon agrees and says every time a woman walks outside in Egypt, independent of what she’s wearing, a large majority of men blatantly stare at her.
“They scan her entire body as if she is a mere object, not a valued human being. The high frequency of stares makes it the most common form of sexual harassment, violating women’s ability to feel safe while walking in the streets.”
Van Loon also reminds us that Egyptian strict religious rules only allow sexual relations in marriage and the role of women is to raise children. However, more and more females are beginning to assert themselves and find jobs. The filmmaker stressed that many young Egyptian men can’t afford to have a family and use sexual harassment as an excuse for their frustrations.
[Image via Shutterstock]