Editorial: Egypt's sunny economy and landmark harassment verdict

Rania Al Malky
6 Min Read

On Tuesday, to cap two days of miraculously upbeat discussions about the state of Egypt’s economy in the midst of a global crisis at the annual Euromoney Conference, as the Egyptian stock market continued to take a dive, we ran a lead story titled “Nazif’s closing remarks echo peppy tone of Euromoney.

“Singing in thematic harmony with the many Cabinet ministers that had spoken before him, business reporter Theodore May wrote, “[Prime Minister] Nazif largely touted the strength of the economy, seamlessly flipping concerned questions from the moderator and the audience in order to highlight the positives.

The PM then went on to enumerate one sunny forecast after the next involving everything from the sturdiness of the Egyptian banking sector, to the inevitability of falling inflation rates and remarkably, the reality of trickle down dynamics which Nazif passionately argued was already felt by farmers and construction workers.

In stark contrast with Nazif’s views, lawyer and partner in Baker and McKenzie Taher Helmy, in an interview with Daily News Egypt, said: “I do not believe we should draw on trickle-down economics, because it’s slow by nature. Especially in the current economic environment, the government will have to come up with programs. .There should be social programs.

There should be programs directed to the poor, specifically to the lower-income level rather than relying on trickle-down economics.

It was certainly refreshing to see the “lower-income brackets mentioned at this A-list gathering of local businessmen/politicians within the context of the government’s responsibility to take initiative to lift the poor from abject conditions that have been worsening steadily over the past year.

So it hasn’t all been bad news this week for a change. (You can take that with a grain of salt.)

The landmark court verdict handed down to driver Sherif Gomaa Gibrial who was sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined LE 5,001 for sexually assaulting 29-year-old Noha Roushdy last June in Heliopolis in broad daylight, was cause for real celebration.

Perhaps readers in other parts of the world may not realize the revolutionary significance of this case, but to every Egyptian woman or even foreign woman living in or visiting Egypt who has been groped or cat-called, Noha has come to symbolize the sort of courage and defiance we must all emulate to eradicate the continuous assault on women on Egyptian streets, whether physical or psychological.

In a culture where speaking out against such lewd behavior is seen as brazen and unbecoming of any “decent woman, Noha’s insistence to press charges against her assailant in the first case of its kind is truly inspiring.

But this is merely the beginning of the battle. As women’s rights activists in Egypt have said repeatedly, there is a pressing need to draft legislation that clearly defines “sexual harassment – whether in the street or in the workplace – criminalizes it, and imposes harsher punishments.

Sadly the bigger battle is the one against the deep-rooted cultural perception of victims of harassment as the real culprits in a skewed logic that accuses the prey of attracting its predator, even “asking for it. I continue to be shocked each time I come across Egyptians’ opinions on the reasons behind the recent outbreak of this repugnant behavior, ironically in a country where superficial shows of religiosity are also on the rise.

Women interviewed on a BBC Arabic radio program for instance blamed the victims for not dressing modestly even though research statistics have proven again and again that more women wearing the headscarf (hijab) are harassed in Egypt than those who don’t.

Others interviewed on the same show have blamed the dire economic situation, unemployment, the inability to afford the cost of marriage, the housing crunch and racy music videos on satellite channels for these harassment cases – which, more than anything reveals an inexplicable bias towards the aggressors, who, may not necessarily be victim to such circumstances.

The fact is, in a country that has lost its moral compass on so many levels, both in the public and the private sphere, only the long arm of the law, implemented with equanimity and fairness on rich and poor, those with connections and those without, can put an end to the rampant lawlessness infesting our lives here, with no foreseeable end in sight.

Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.

Share This Article
Leave a comment