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Despite worldwide publicity and campaigning, the approach to actually solving the sexual harassment epidemic in Egypt has sadly been a pretty apathetic one, with police giving less than a gram of shit about the situation, leaving street perverts to grope away until their hands are content. So it’s perhaps no surprise that anti-harassment groups in Cairo have gone vigilante, taking what’s left of the law into their own hands and patroling the streets to fight the harassment epidemic themselves.
We first heard about “Be A Man,” one of the more radical anti-harassment campaigns, from a story on NPR. The members of the group patroled during the recent Eid al-Adha festival celebrations, armed with cans of black and white spray paint, attacking, pinning down, and scarlet-lettering the shit out of grabbers and gropers with the words “I Am a Harasser.” Mostly men themselves, the activists wore matching fluoro jackets with “Harassment Prevention” scrawled across their backs in Arabic. I spoke to Muhammad Taimoor, leader and founder of the campaign, about their controversial tactics during the festival.
VICE: Hey Muhammad. Can you tell me a little bit about what’s been going on in the past few weeks?
Muhammad Taimoor: Yeah, we’ve been working against harassment with our campaign, “Be a Man.” A big problem here is that women-only carriages on the subway are being invaded by men who are then harassing the women onboard, so we’ve been working against that. It was Eid a couple of weeks ago and we were expecting that would be a particularly bad time for harassment. In the three days of Eid that I participated in, we caught about 300 cases of harassment—that’s 100 every day.
Wow, good job. How do you “catch” these cases?
Our tactics this time were pretty violent—a lot of people were offended because they didn’t like what we were doing. Basically, we attacked the harassers and spray-painted “I Am a Harasser” on anyone we caught in the act. The police weren’t at all supportive of what we were trying to do and they clearly weren’t ready to keep Egyptian women safe during Eid, so we did all the work on our own.
Why did you choose tagging with spray-paint as a tactic?
Because, in our society, a girl blames herself when she gets harassed. When she speaks out to her family about it, they blame her. Sometimes they prevent her from going to school or going outside because they think that sexual harassment is the girl’s problem, not the harasser’s problem. So, when our group attacks the harasser, the girl feels confident in herself. She feels like she was right, she feels like the street is supporting her. She’ll have the confidence to walk in the street without fear and she won’t be afraid to speak out if it happens again.
How did you get people together for the campaign over Eid?
We collected people on Facebook and got about 30 to 50 people over the three days to join us. I think we did a great job. Just between us, we caught 300 harassers. If everyone in Egypt does what we’re doing and protects the ladies in their hometowns, it would improve the situation so much, because the police don’t bother at all. A little justice is better than no justice.
What do the police have to say about what you’re doing?
They think we’re not doing a good job, that we should be cooperating with them and that we shouldn’t be attacking people in the street. They don’t like it, basically. I was arrested, along with some other people who attacked harassers. But, seeing as they’re doing an awful job of keeping women safe from harassment, someone has to step in.
Have the police or the government not done anything at all to combat harassment?
The government aren’t treating it with the attention it needs; they’re underestimating it. The first research into harassment was only seven years ago and the researchers were accused of being disloyal and treasonous. So the publicity and examination of the subject is new to Egypt—even the police hold the Egyptian idea of blaming the girl—so I think it’ll take a long time to move forward properly.
What’s it like being involved in this campaign as a man?
It’s an honor. I think the first step towards fighting this phenomenon in our society is not to be afraid—as men—to acknowledge its existence. I’m not afraid to say that my society is growing more masculine—giving far more rights to men that it does to women—and one of the biggest problems is how people seem to deny that’s happening.
(TRIGGER WARNING: Rape/Sexual assault)
Dear Todd Akin,
I am writing to you tonight about rape. It is 2 AM and I am unable to sleep here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am in Bukavu at the City of Joy to serve and support and work with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies.
I am in Congo but I could be writing this from anywhere in the United States, South Africa, Britain, Egypt, India, Philippines, most college campuses in America. I could be writing from any city or town or village where over half a billion women on the planet are raped in their lifetime.
Mr. Akin, your words have kept me awake.
As a rape survivor, I am reeling from your recent statement where you said you misspoke when you said that women do not get pregnant from legitimate rape, and that you were speaking “off the cuff.”
Clarification. You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP.
You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.
When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only “forcible” rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren’t forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped — intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like “forcible” and “legitimate” is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.
Now you want to say that you misspoke when you said that a legitimate rape couldn’t get us pregnant. Did you honestly believe that rape sperm is different than love sperm, that some mysterious religious process occurs and rape sperm self-destructs due to its evilcontent? Or, were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us? It would seem you were saying that getting pregnant after a rape would indicate it was not a “legitimate” rape.
Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are on your bed or up against a wall or locked in a small suffocating space. Imagine being tied up there and imagine some aggressive, indifferent, insane stranger friend or relative ripping off your clothes and entering your body — the most personal, sacred, private part of your body — and violently, hatefully forcing themself into you so that you are ripped apart. Then imagine that stranger’s sperm shooting into you and filling you and you can’t get it out. It is growing something in you. Imagine you have no idea what that life will even consist of, spiritually made in hate, not knowing the mental or health background of the rapist.
Then imagine a person comes along, a person who has never had that experience of rape, and that person tells you, you have no choice but to keep that product of rape growing in you against your will and when it is born it has the face of your rapist, the face of the person who has essentially destroyed your being and you will have to look at the face every day of your life and you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.
I don’t know if you can imagine any of this (leadership actually requires this kind of compassion), but if you are willing to go to the depth of this darkness, you will quickly understand that there is NO ONE WHO CAN MAKE THAT CHOICE to have or not have the baby, but the person carrying that baby herself.
I have spent much time with mothers who have given birth to children who are the product of rape. I have watched how tortured they are wrestling with their hate and anger, trying not to project that onto their child.
I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies. These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.
Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.
And by the way you’ve just given millions of women a very good reason to make sure you never get elected again, and an insanely good reason to rise.
People protest in the city of Kabul, over the execution style murder of a woman accused of adultery. Their placards read: ‘Other women can’t be silenced’. Other protesters carried signs saying ”International community: Where is the protection and justice for Afghan women?”
Today Afghan women’s affairs official was killed in a car bomb.
Women have gained basic rights such as education voting and employment in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban but their rights are in a very precarious position right now. There’s a danger that the Afghan government could trade them away in return for peace with the Taliban. The women in the picture are speaking up about these issues, and we ought to give them a hand. Please reblog, and if you have a spare few minutes you could even contact you EU representative or local politician to ask that they continue to push for women’s rights in Afghanistan.
You can read more on this issue at Amnesty International.
Why feminism is still relevant - [Guest Vlog]
[TRIGGER WARNING - mention of rape, slut shaming and victim blaming.]
Kinks is back with some tips on how to deal with those who think feminism is no longer relevant.
More guest videos: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFF49AAFE68A5E43E
Want to guest vlog for Those Pesky Dames? Click here to find out how!
This Dame: http://hellokinks.tumblr.com/
In November 2007, Laxmi Orang, a tribal girl, was stripped naked by a mob in Guwahati and beaten up mercilessly. The terrified girl escaped the murderous mob by somehow disentangling herself from its clutches and running to safety naked in full public view. The reaction to the incident followed the pattern which is familiar by now – expression of shock from all quarters, call for the people of Assam to introspect and beginning of an elaborate blame game. The case faded in public memory in a matter of weeks. The case of the teenager thrown among the wolves outside a Guwahati pub is likely to go the same way.
There are a few nasty takeaways from the unfortunate episode and its aftermath. There were people who could have acted to protect the dignity of the girl but didn’t. Nobody involved in the episode—the general public, the police and the television channel which shot the incident—come up in edifying light. What we have now is clever spins to the incident from the latter two aimed at making them look better than what they were on Monday and afterwards.
“I doubt the channels claim that two of their reporters were trying to save the girl. Nowhere in the video have we seen them,” women rights activist Sheetal Sharma told Firstpost from Guwahati over telephone. “Their camera focused on where the hands groped and how the hands slid through the girl’s dress. Their story was on what the girl was wearing and where she went… The media is showing a complete lack of sensitivity by questioning the morality of the victim,” she added.
Newslive, the local channel which proudly took the credit for airing the footage and claimed to be doing a service to the society with their raw coverage of the barbaric act, would have none of it. Managing Editor of the channel Syed Zarir Hussain said the channel had telecast 20 seconds of the clipping on Monday itself and on subsequent days more of it. It took a long time for other media outlets to get out of the slumber.
“In fact, the local media did not pick up anything on the issue on Tuesday. We discussed the whole of Tuesday morning whether to telecast it further or not and finally went for it. We also had talk shows on the incident. Even then there was no response neither from local nor national media. It was only on Thursday night that NDTV picked up the story and they contacted me. Friday was crazy as you saw it. But you should remember it was a Monday incident,” Hussain said.
There’s no clarity yet on what the channel was showing on Monday and after that and what the clippings were exactly about. In any case, if those were even close to Sheetal Sharma’s version then the lapse is unpardonable.
Asked whether he expected a backlash for the fact that his reporters went for shooting the incident instead of saving the victim, he said it was expected. “We did anticipate such reaction. It is for my crew that we have the faces of the culprits. Our video can show you that my reporters indeed attempted to stop what was happening. But they cannot handle a mob on their own. I completely stand by my crew. Had my crew not shot it, the criminals would have gone scot-free and raped 20 more girls.”
Meanwhile RTI activist Akhil Gogoi at a press conference in Guwahati on Saturday claimed that Newslive reporter Gaurav Jyoti Neog was behind the whole incident. He also claimed that he had proof to corroborate his claims.
“We submitted a CD with to DGP Jayanta Narayan Choudhury and urged him to take action,” Gogoi said.
However, Hussain refuted the charges.
“The Newslive reporter was at the spot by chance. The footage we have makes it clear that our staff not tried to protect the girl but also called the police,” the Newslive managing editor Hussain said.
Anjuman Borah, Associate Professor with the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University, is not convinced. “This is an unbelievable incident. May be it is time we think how we cover news. I am not sure whether Newslive was expecting this kind of reaction. They were caught in a spot leaving them with hardly any choice but stand by their staff. The role of the bystanders is a telling tale of our society.”
Did the reporters inform the police immediately or they were too busy summoning cameraman and recording the incident? While they say they indeed informed the police, the latter say no. The reporters could have done journalism a service but the moral question still remains.
How do the police stand in the entire episode? Discredited. The girl was tortured for close to 30 long minutes. They reached the scene of the crime too late. And we had this strange explanation for the delay from DGP, Jayanta Narayan Choudhury. On Friday, he had said the police cannot be expected to be as ATM and land instantly at a crime scene.
While speaking to Firstpost, he was more careful. “The reaction of the public and the media is quite natural. With such a heinous incident people are bound to react that way. Our reaction could have been faster though,” he said.
“Reaction would have been quicker from our side had there been adequate resources. In the US there are more than 400 policemen per 100,000 people but here it is different. We have only 70 personnel to take care of 100,000 people. The ratio is just 1:8 in Guwahati,” he added.
Sheetal Sharma does not agree. “There is no question of lack of resources. They did not even consider the case as a crime. They did not know how to react and simply came and took the girl away,” Sheetal said, adding, “Had they been sensitized enough they would have attempted to arrest the people immediately. The poor gender perspective of the police is out in the open.”
Meanwhile, the one-person panel appointed by the government to probe the case has begun its work. “I have just started the enquiry. I have not decided whom to call yet. I shall call people as required during the progress of the enquiry,” Emily Das Choudhury, additional chief secretary, public enterprises with the government of Assam, told Firstpost.
By Annie-Rose Strasser on Jun 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm
Between 1990 and 2008, pregnancy and abortion rates for women in their twenties dropped dramatically, a new study revealed today. Pregnancy rates fell by 18 percent, while abortion rates dropped by a third.
One of the biggest influencing factors in this decrease is the growing accessibility, use, and options for birth control. Contraceptive use is the best way to prevent abortions in the U.S. Over time, young women have gotten greater access to a larger number of pregnancy prevention methods. The study explains two main causes in the drop:
The introduction of new contraceptive methods and discontinuation of existing ones and]changes in the use of existing methods: the proportion of women using any method, the methods used, and how consistently and effectively they are used.
Indeed, only 70 percent of women (PDF) who started having sex between 1990 and 1994 used protection, whereas 84 percent did between 2005 and 2008:
And President Obama’s new policy that expands access to birth control will help ensure that more women can get contraception when they need it.
Currently, over half of pregnancies are unintended in the United States. Growing access to prevention methods will lead to a decrease in such unintended pregnancies. Other factors — including the trend toward getting married at an older age — also contribute to the pregnancy drop for 20-somethings.