January 13, 2016

FEMINISTS LEAST HEARD FROM: North Africa Exports Rape Culture to Germany.

I can’t know from personal experience what it’s like to walk around as a woman in the Middle East or North Africa, but I’ve spent more than a decade of my life on and off in that part of the world and have had conversations with more than a thousand people, men and women alike. Women are unanimous here: Harassment in North Africa ranges from annoying to unspeakable while it’s virtually non-existent in Lebanon and Syria. I don’t know why. That’s just how it is.

“The worst part is that Egyptian men won’t back down when I tell them to leave me alone,” the Australian woman in Cairo added.

The Cologne police department says most of the offenders come from North Africa rather than Syria, which is exactly what we should expect.

“In a 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights,” Mona Eltahawy writes in her book, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. “More than 80 percent of Egyptian women said they’d experienced sexual harassment, and more than 60 percent of men admitted to harassing women. A 2013 UN survey reported that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women experience street sexual harassment. Men grope and sexually assault us, and yet we are blamed for it because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, wearing the wrong thing.”

Sexual assault in public is so pervasive in Egypt that the authorities ban men from some cars on the subway so women can get to work in the morning without being mauled.

Foreign women get it in Egypt, too, most infamously when CBS reporter Lara Logan was brutally assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the night the Egyptian army removed Hosni Mubarak from power. An enormous mob surrounded her, stripped her naked, sexually assaulted her and damn near killed her.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have given up on the 19th Century goal of civilizing the barbarians quite so quickly.

Related item here.

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