Against mistreatment of women in Egypt

Amnesty International has organized an event against the mistreatment of women in Egypt. RUG-students were there to demonstrate.

Cindy Schaeffer, a 22-year-old International and European Law student from Germany, received flowers today. A friend sent them saying she deserved them ‘because you’re a princess’. Cindy is protesting today, because, as she says: ‘ Women all over the world are princesses, and deserve to be treated as such.

Amnesty International has organized a nation-wide event protesting the mistreatment of women in Egypt, demanding that gender equality be included in Egypt’s new constitution. Anouk Baron, a Dutch organizer, explains: ‘ On International Women’s Day we celebrate what has been done for women’s rights, but we also address what still needs to be done. Women fought for justice alongside men in the Arab Spring, but were harassed, sexually abused and subjected to virginity tests.’

Virginity tests?

‘Yeah, men would just lift up their skirts on the streets to check if their hymens were still intact. It’s a horrible form of sexual harassment.’

For some, like Esther Groenert, a 22-year-old student of International Business and Management, this all brings back memories. She saw women being harassed while watching the Arab Spring on TV. ‘It was difficult to watch’, she remarks.

Around 400 people are expected to participate in the event. Photos will be taken of participants standing in front of graffiti saying, ‘We support the women of Egypt.’ These photos will be sent to women’s rights NGOs in Egypt as a show of support. Anouk, who is also doing a Research Master’s in Modern History and International Relations, notes, ‘It’s challenging for these NGOs, and they feel lonely. We want them to know that the international community is still keeping an eye out for them.’ In addition, signed letters will be sent to the new Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

How much harassment and discrimination did women in Egypt face during the Arab Spring?

“That is part of the problem. There are no accurate figures, because the government tries to cover up the truth and those of NGOs vary… but it’s a prevalent issue”, Anouk says.