The Great Debate UK

Egypt’s treatment of women is a social nuclear weapon


There was widespread dismay at a recent survey that ranked Egypt as the worst Arab country to be a woman. The poll, conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, found that an astonishingly high 99% of women and girls experience sexual harassment, and worst of all the perpetrators of this abuse often go unpunished. Egypt scored poorly in every category of the poll including violence against women, reproductive rights and their inclusion in politics and the economy.

The poll surveyed 366 respondents – aid and healthcare workers, policy makers, journalists, academics and lawyers – and asked their opinion on women across Arab League countries. Although this is a perception poll, it is useful to get an idea of how the outside world view women’s role in society, politics and the economy. Perhaps the most interesting finding is that three out of five Arab Spring countries were ranked at the bottom of the pile. Discouragingly, it looks like revolution has not brought women the freedom they campaigned for in Tahrir Square in 2011.

Instead  of bringing greater freedom, openness and giving power back to the people, the experts have noticed that since he Arab Spring patriarchal norms have been reinforced, in addition there has been an increase in violence generally, instability, political corruption and bribery and a lack of security. This is not the type of environment where women see their rights improve and their position in society respected and solidified.

Women are 50% of the population, and if they can’t get their voice heard, find a job, or even walk down the street without the threat of being attacked or harassed then an economy cannot thrive. Unless the situation improves, then Egypt will not be able to see economic, political and societal improvements that were at the heart of the Arab Spring protests.