Egypt’s deep-seated culture of sexism

Tahrir Square, Cairo

Until the rhetoric from the male elite begins to reflect the change they claim they want to see in Egypt, women will continue to be repressed and harassed. Al-Sisi is leading the show; it is time for him to step up to the mark on women’s rights.

“Don’t worry, women have smaller brains than men.”

“It’s in the Qur’an, its God’s right given to men to command women.”

“Women overstate the problem, its nothing, they shouldn’t take it so seriously.”

These are just some of the comments that I heard sitting with various groups of young and older Egyptian men in Cairo’s Tahrir Square recently. I’d been approaching groups of males all day, hoping to hear them whistling and yelling at passing women in an attempt to understand why they did it; the catcalls began with predictable but saddening speed.

After each example of harassment, I stepped in gently to ask why they thought it was OK to do it. Regardless of if they were a street hawker, taxi driver, university graduate, call centre worker or even a university professor, the deep-rooted culture of male sexism that pervades Egyptian society was clear…

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I suspect it is connected to Islam myself.