Threat of violence against women in Egypt unfolds after attacks

Washington, Feb 18 (ANI): The reported attack of a senior U.S. television correspondent during celebrations of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's stepping down from office, has brought into the open the threat of violence women in Egypt face.

CBS chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan, went through a "brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating" by a frenzied mob in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the celebrations.

And as she recovers in her Washington-area home, the story of her ordeal has raised issues and questions of how safe women in Egypt are.

During the uprising, women say they briefly experienced a "new Egypt", with strict social customs casually cast aside-at least among the protesters.

Egyptian women's rights campaigners now worry that the reprieve they experienced during the uprising was a fluke, and that their society will quickly revert to oppressive social mores that leave women vulnerable to sexual violence, with little recourse.

Medine Ebeid of Egypt's New Woman Foundation said women in Egypt and in many areas of the Arab world are still afraid to report sexual assault or harassment, fearing they and their families will be stigmatised.

Sexual harassment remains widespread in Egypt, and even women covered up by veils and long robes in strict Islamic dress say they are not immune.

A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women in Cairo said they had been harassed-while 62 percent of men admitted to harassing.

Harassment is often the flip side of conservative mores. Men who believe women should stay out of the public sphere tend to assume that those seen in the streets are fair game.

Widespread unemployment leaves young men bored, frustrated and unable to marry.

Activist Rasha Hassan, who helps run Harrasmap, a website that allows women to quickly report instances of harassment via text message or Twitter, said she and others hope to harness the spirit that made Tahrir safe for a while.

"We believe that when people think about a big thing, all of us collect (gather) for a main goal, our good morals return," CBS News quoted Hassan as saying.

Asma Barlas, an expert on women in Islamic societies at Ithaca College, said change will likely be slow because traditional attitudes run deep.

"When societal images of women begin to change, maybe things will get better," she stated. (ANI)

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