How we fail women abroad

Women are raped, mutilated, or sold as sex slaves, meanwhile we look the other way. Here Alexander Alley discusses the statistics and stories that shed light on the culture of Rape and misogyny in the wider world. Special focus will also be given to Egypt where despite the so called Arab Spring, Women are still subjected to the horrors of mutilation, oppression and rape.

Young girls are being sold to militants in Libya, FGM is still prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, whilst the West has made great strides in progress for women’s equality we tend to ignore oppression elsewhere. We bracket ourselves into small localised movements and wonder why women elsewhere aren’t being treated fairly. A “slut walk” in Toronto gained traction in Europe and America, meanwhile, women who celebrate Women’s day in Turkey are shot with rubber bullets and tear gas. While Feminists lock horns with Conservatives and Liberals on University campuses across the West we blanche over Women being beaten or stoned for being raped (extra marital sex) or young Yemeni girls married as child brides. We detest rape in the West yet we dislocate ourselves from women in Africa who face rape as tool of war.

We are all guilty of blinding ourselves, although there is a sickening irony that exists in our rhetoric. In the same year the famous Feminist revival reported by Joan Smith in 2013’s Slut walk demonstrations saying that “Feminism is one of the great human rights movements” wesimultaneously failed to noticein the same year, young Libyan girls were being sold as tribute to militia fighters loyal to ISIS, where is their human rights? This is still ongoing at a rate of fifteen girls every three weeks, an example of this tragedy tells us of a twelve-year-old girl that was raped multiple times by various fighters.

Carlos Lowry / Creative Commons License

Carlos Lowry / Creative Commons License

Female Genital Mutilation is still carried out in small but significant blocs of the population in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia.There are several forms of FGM, however, all are invasive and damaging; from cutting the labia, removing the Labia, clitoris, or to sew shut the vagina by stitching the labia together. This is conducted at alarming rates, in Iraqi Kurdistan 72%ofwomen are suspected to be victims of FGM; Nigeria holds one quarter of all women subjected to mutilation.

Moreover, women and girls make up 80% of the victims of human trafficking, with a further 80% involved in sexual exploitation. Human trafficking is so rife, that it’s the third most lucrative illegal trade in the world, something that can only be called modern slavery.

For the time being we’ll focus on Egypt, as its perhaps the closest to home and has been widely documented as having a culture of rape and oppression that eclipses the Arab spring as one of the largest travesties of the 21st century. For us in the West who saw it through gilded lenses we saw it as a victory for Liberty and Democracy, however, for women in Egypt they saw it as a missed opportunity to tackle issues that they face; only to beremindedof their second class status juxtaposed to men in their own country.

Gender equality has been a battleground in Egypt since the 1920’s, with a movement epitomised by Huda Shaarawi and Saiza Nabarawi famously tearing off their veils in Cairo Station to aghast men and cheering women, the same movement in Egypt saw women acquire the right to vote and run for office in 1956. However, despite their achievements, Egypt is still a country that sees women assaulted at alarming rates, Mona Eltahawy writes at length about the injustices that Egyptian women face on a daily basis.“In a 2008 survey by the Egyptian centre for women’s rights, more than 80% of Egyptian women said they’d experienced sexual harassment, and more than 60 percent of men admitted to harassing women.” According to a UN survey,99% of women experienced a form of harassment, in Cairo, women only carriages on subways are used to protect women and FGM is rife;“90%” of women who have ever married, are subjected to a form of mutilation.

Westerners also have been known to experience the trouble Egyptian women face, aninfamous case concerns the assault of Lara Logan. Asa reporter for CBS, during her coverage of the Tahir square protests she was pulled away from her team, beaten, stripped and sexually assaulted by dozens of men for around 25 minutes. This continued until a group of women rescued her and protected her from the crowd,”The only thing to fight for, left to fight for, was my life,” she said. “I have to just surrender to the sexual assault. What more can they do now? They’re inside you everywhere.”

DFID - UK Department for International Development / Creative Commons License

DFID – UK Department for International Development / Creative Commons License

What’s more shocking is our behaviour concerning such acts, coverage of the Tahir square was spun to show an enlightened and warm protest, (see the Coptic Christians protecting Muslims during prayers.) however, what the coverage didn’t examine was the 169 mob rapes that happened during the protests.

It was  Marshall McLuhan who coined the“Global village”, a figurative village where we all share

the same fate and should strive for the betterment of not only us, but our neighbours. Yet in reality we ignore our neighbours; even though they face rape, mutilation and oppression.Likewise, we fail women in Egypt, by refusing to tackle these issues lest we are condemned of being insensitive and imperialistic, despite our supposed championing of basic human rights. We preach about our values and principles incessantly, yet bow down to cultural relativism when the realities of our world knocks on our door. We condemn Donald Trump for his ideas of building a wall, yet we erect one every day when we turn a blind eye to the atrocities that an entire gender is subjected to next door?









The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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