A vocal group of around 150 demonstrators gathered outside the Egyptian embassy in London on Tuesday evening, braving the bitter cold to participate in a global day of protest, called by The Uprising of Women in the Arab World, against the growing number of sexually violent attacks against women in Egypt.
Sexual violence against women has reached horrific levels in Cairo, and has become a frequent and sinister aspect of most demonstrations. These attacks are widely accepted as being used systematically as a political tool to intimidate and discourage women from participating in demonstrations. Numerous reports from women, who have been sexually attacked, relate similar stories of being encircled by mobs of men - often initially appearing to assist the women with a safe passage through the crowd - before turning on the isolated women and sexually attacking her.
Unfortunately these horrific incidents that we are currently seeing are part of a wider epidemic of sexual harassment that has plagued Egyptian society for many years, with Egyptian and foreign women experiencing sexual harassment on the street on a daily basis. Police and other law enforcers have largely ignored this issue of sexual harassment and assaults, often holding the view that the fault of these sexual attacks lies with the women and that the solution is to keep women separated from men if not out of public altogether.
A group of initiatives have been set up to try and deal with the growing sexual violence against women in Cairo, especially in Tahrir Square during demonstrations, such as Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault, a collaboration of several initiatives as well as individual volunteers working against sexual violence in Egypt and Tahrir BodyGuard, a group of people who have trained themselves to deal with the violence as and when it occurs.
The chants shouted in the direction of those inside the Embassy on Tuesday showed an on-going dissatisfaction with the regime and in this case their inadequate responses, if not compliance with, the increase in sexual attacks against women protesters, with demonstrators shouting the now familiar chant we have been hearing for the last two years; “the people want the downfall of the regime”, as well as "women are the red line", "women are the voice of the revolution" and "women’s voices are getting higher & won't be quietened".
The protest in London was one of many happening around the world on the same day to show solidarity with those in Egypt who have been victims of sexual harassment and assault as well as those working tirelessly to prevent and raise awareness of the issue.
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