Of women and sex

Rana Allam
6 Min Read
Rana Allam
Rana Allam

Yesterday we published a feature on domestic violence that described women being beaten, raped, and severely abused by their husbands and/or fathers. The statistics show a staggering 28 per cent of women are victims of domestic violence, within the context of marriage alone. A third of women in Egypt. Naturally this number must be even higher in reality because most women do not report or would not speak of such crimes against them, given the nature of these assaults.

The article included true stories told by a group of women who live in the same poor neighbourhood. In great detail the ladies poured out their hearts thinking we could help, thinking that the powers-that-be will listen and find a solution, and thinking that “society” will have mercy and, at least, sympathise. But no, what I received was criticisms on the use of details and “bad words” in the description of how one sadistic husband rapes his wife. I was told that mentioning such stuff and saying those words is haram (forbidden by Islam).

So basically we are being immodest, and possibly sinful, for detailing a crime during the age when a former Islamist parliamentarian proposed a law to the Islamist dominated parliament to legitimatise sleeping with the dead, to allow necrophilia in our “modest” country. Thankfully, parliament did not take his proposal seriously and it was not discussed, but the MP in question was not labelled “sinful”.

Talk of sexual sadism is forbidden, but having articles in the constitution allowing paedophilia is not. It is acceptable that the Islamist dominated constituent assembly discusses legalising marrying little girls, as young as nine years old, but it is not acceptable to talk about vile behaviours that already take place in our society.

Those critics allowed themselves to only see sexual details and none of them seem to have noticed the atrocities committed, but then again, there is nothing new there. The obsession of our new rulers and their committees and assemblies with women and sex is astounding. Beginning with the former parliament, passing by the Constituent Assembly and down to the most insignificant sheikh in their mosques, the most dominant discussions are related to the female body. Even their solution to the problem of sexual harassment lies in covering up the woman, regardless of the fact that monaqabat get sexually assaulted as well as non-veiled women. The issue is always about the woman and her parts.

They want us to forget about the issues of Egypt’s deteriorating healthcare with its substandard hospitals and doctors and nurses and equipment, and focus on cutting off female genitals. Let us spend days and nights figuring out whether Islam forced it, or recommended it, or accepted it because it was a long living tradition. Let us debate whether it should remain banned or whether it should be left to the parents’ whims when the girl reaches eighteen years of age. Let us focus on the female anatomy and forget about the population’s bodies altogether. And while we are at it, let us debate the large spectrum of interpretation of Shari’a laws when it comes to gender equality. It is time to find out whether our different anatomies impose different rules.

Debates are very hot on the age of marrying off a fourth grade girl, on whether she should be covered from head to toe or allow her show her face, while half the population is barefoot. On whether it is mandatory to cover the hair, and should we enforce this by law or not, while we live on a garbage dump.

Right now, the honourable Constituent Assembly is having heated discussions on whether to include Islamic Shari’a “law” or Islamic Shari’a “principles”. Every article in the constitution related to women and their rights, has some debatable phrase like “not contrary to”, or “but must take into consideration blah blah blah,” with no explanation on how that would be helpful to women who are victims of daily abuse, but with great emphasis on limiting what little freedom she has.

Ignoring that the current situation of women in Egypt is already difficult, they are being sexually assaulted in broad daylight on the streets, and  beaten up and raped in their own homes, and no one seems to care to put in some clause protecting them from violence.  Instead, they have in fact removed a clause on human trafficking because it would criminalise marrying girls under 18. Those in power are too busy to notice the daily atrocities committed against women, they need to talk about female dress codes because that is the main problem Egyptian women are facing right now!

I certainly hope the soon to-be-elected parliament would think outside of the female anatomy and concentrate more on society’s anatomy. I certainly hope not to have to hear of proposed laws to allow sex with the dead, or with kids for that matter!

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