Egypt’s Christian Women Battle Harassment

ICC Note: A Coptic Christian journalist based in Cairo has published an op-ed sharing her thoughts about the challenges which Christian women experience in Egypt. She speaks of the harassment and shame that women experience, and how it is much worse for Christian women because they are regarded as lacking morals since they do not wear a head covering. The challenges women face are even worse if they are widows or are experiencing domestic violence. 

07/22/2018 Egypt (The Tablet) – To be a woman in a country where most of her people see women as a disgrace, and at best look at her from a sexual point of view, it is a heavy burden, but even worse when you are a Christian woman. It is hell!

To be a Coptic woman, you are under many grievances by society and church alike. Coptic women in Egypt face two dilemmas: gender as a female and religion as Christians.

Sexual harassment can be described as an epidemic that spreads throughout Egypt. According to a 2013 study by the United Nations, more than 98 percent of all Egyptian women have been subjected to harassment.

But the study did not show how harassment differs from a woman wearing hijab to another who reveals her hair. Most Muslim women in Egypt wear hijab and therefore, the others who do not wear it are most likely Coptic. This means that the Egyptian man thinks he has the right to harass her, simply because he sees her as a whore and a disbeliever.

You may think that I am talking about a certain class of men, but in fact, most Muslim men (not all, but the majority) view the Coptic woman as easy prey. He thinks that he will have a religious reward if he can manipulate her emotionally and persuade her to marry him, or to convert to Islam, a phenomenon prevalent in Upper Egypt.

For me, as a liberal woman, I’m always careful of those men who I work with or meet in any place because the society looks at the woman who is liberal and open minded, especially if she is Coptic, in a very bad way.

For the harassment issue, there is a stark and shocking reality, which is that the community always defends the harasser. If the victim tries to report the harasser, you hear words, “do not get caught up in a scandal … shame will be on you.”

And if the victim is Christian or does not wear a hijab you hear: “You have to be decent and cover up your body.”

According to a U.N. study, 84 percent of Egyptian women believe that “women who dress provocatively deserve to be harassed.” Unfortunately, women play a big role in oppressing each other. Religious fanaticism and the claim of virtue make women blame the victim.

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