Another online initiative was launched on Facebook last week attempting to put an end to the sexual harassment plaguing Egypt.
After Facebook proved its efficiency in politically mobilising Egyptian youth during the 25 January revolution, many social and charity programs used the social medium to launch their initiatives. It is easy to create a group or a page and garner publicity for a cause.
The idea for this latest initiative was born when the administrator and creator of the page was bothered by an elderly driver while she was stuck in traffic. The driver verbally harassed her for some time and she decided to expose him by taking his picture and uploading his photo on Facebook. She created a Facebook page called Efdah Motaharish, ‘Expose Harassers’, where she posted his photo and related her experience of how he harassed her.
To her surprise the story and the man’s photo went viral and reached around half a million viewers. Since the page was established on Thursday 14 March it has grown to over 8,000 members.
“The photo encouraged many other girls who are groped or harassed daily to take pictures and send me the photos of their harassers; one girl told me she feels safer going out on streets after I started the page,” said M, the page’s creator, who asked to remain anonymous. Many women’s groups and civil society organisations have contacted Efdah Motaharish to coordinate and unify their efforts to combat sexual harassment.
The technique proved effective as she succeeded in exposing her harasser’s identity. He contacted her shortly after and threatened to file a slander case against her if she did not remove his photo. Because of this M now feels it would be better to obtain a video recording of harassers as stronger proof of their behavior, strengthening women’s legal positions.
“I asked all the page members to record short video clips of their harassers so there is no chance to wrongfully defame or slander anyone,” M said.
It is often hard for a woman to prove that she was subjected to harassment since Egyptian law states that any harassment report must be accompanied by at least two witnesses. Furthermore, many girls and women are embarrassed to report the words and deeds they were subjected to at the hands of their harassers.
M has a degree in political science and said that society still clings to some traditions that constantly blame the woman for any issues and this deprives many women from reporting harassment. “The idea of exposing the harassers’ images proved to be easier for women and is a deterrent for harassers,” she said.
Exposing the culprits is not the only remedy for the harassment epidemic, but women may feel better seeing their harassers named and shamed on the internet.
“The presence of Security Forces must be reinforced especially during rush hours and in crowded places; effective surveillance systems should exist to keep an eye on harassers and the amendment of the law is essential to guarantee suitable deterrent and punishment for those who pester women,” M said.
M aims to contribute in raising awareness of what women are subjected to daily, hoping to help make sure this repulsive behaviour will disappear from Egyptian streets.