A video posted online in Cairo has reignited a fiery debate among the populace as to what role a female’s clothing plays in determining sexual harassment.
Recent polls in Egypt have found that a majority of both men and women in the conservative Muslim country justify catcalling, pinching, and grabbing if women dress "provocatively" in public, the Associated Press reported.
The poll surveyed 1,380 men and 1,402 women in five governorates of Egypt, and found that 74% of men and 84% of women felt that "women who dress provocatively deserve to be harassed."
"The incident was indeed harassment and a violation of the girl's privacy," Maha Ahmed, a human rights lawyer at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, told the AP regarding the video. "Unfortunately, there is misunderstanding of harassment in Egypt and this caused the controversy."
In the video, a man identified as Mahmoud Soliman approached the woman filming on a suburban Cairo street and invites her to coffee, then leaves after she declines. But Menna Gubran, who shot the video and posted it on Aug. 15, has said that Soliman only retreated when she took out her camera phone.
Prior to that, she alleges that Soliman circled in his car three times as she waited for a bus, calling out comments that made her feel uncomfortable, according to the report. She exited the street into a nearby supermarket, hoping he would leave. But when she returned to the bus stop, Soliman returned and got out of his car. It was at that point that she began filming.
In response to the video, comments have ranged from support to condemnation of Gubran’s outfit.
In 2014, the Egyptian government passed a law making sexual harassment punishable by up to five years in prison, but it is not widely enforced, according to the report. Part of the problem is that the law does not define different kinds of sexual harassment.
"The state should lay down a clear definition," said Mozn Hassan, a women's rights activist, in an interview with al-Shorouk.