Feminism, Egypt and Lara Logan

In the wake of the attack on CBS journalist Lara Logan, MSNBC takes a closer look at the feminist movement and the state of women’s rights in Egypt:

Egyptian women’s rights campaigners now worry that the reprieve they experienced during the uprising was a fluke, and that their society will quickly revert to oppressive social mores that leave women vulnerable to sexual violence, with little recourse.

Women in Egypt — and in many areas of the Arab world — are still afraid to report sexual assault or harassment, fearing they and their families will be stigmatized, said Medine Ebeid of Egypt’s New Woman Foundation.

Only rarely do women come forward. In a widely publicized 2008 case, a woman dragged her assailant to a police station, and succeeded in sending him to jail for three years.

The killing of women by male relatives for perceived violations of a strict moral code are often either covered up by the families or the assailants, if prosecuted, face light sentences.

Sexual harassment remains widespread in Egypt, and even women covered up by veils and long robes in strict Islamic dress say they are not immune.

A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women in Cairo said they had been harassed — while 62 percent of men admitted to harassing.

Harassment is often the flip side of conservative mores. Men who believe women should stay out of the public sphere tend to assume that those seen in the streets are fair game. Widespread unemployment leaves young men bored, frustrated and unable to marry.

I can only hope the new Egyptian government will place more of a priority on promoting women’s rights than the last government did.

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