Women in the public domain caught between violence and political Exploitation

5 سبتمبر

Women’s participation in the public domain represented a real dilemma for the Egyptian authorities as it symbolizes the prolongation (perpetuation) of the wave of change and its richness, and throughout successive periods of time, the Egyptian Authorities attempted to alienate women and exclude their involvement from the process of change, furthermore the retrogressive cultural structure and its hostility toward women’s participation in the public field formed a fertile soil to their repression and confinement within their limited and basic social unit; the institution of family – the nuclear family. However, those authoritarianism methods which attempted to thrust women away from the struggle for change were futile, specially that women are the most affected by the crisis altogether, which the Egyptian society is witnessing nowadays due to the structural adjustment, the sacristy of job opportunities, the upsurge in rates of women supporting their families, and the prevalence of poverty have compelled women to partake in the social movement, especially with the soar of the deteriorating conditions in slums, the degradation of female farmers working conditions, the disintegration of the industrial and agricultural sectors and women exposure to draconian circumstances. Therefore, it was no surprise the term Feminization of Poverty was coined, to express the rise of the nexus between poverty and social gender.

Prior 25th January Revolution

The Egyptian women participated in the political movement prior 25th January revolution, and they were one of its unique characteristics: the vast female participation; as the calls for change attracted large segments, among them were women, and the first encounter of thousands of high school and university female students with the political movements was at the commencement of activities in solidarity with the second Palestinian Intifada.

“Hundreds of female students, young women, and adult women stood behind bars and they were subject to different form of violence, even العنف ضد النساء minors, nothing but the demonstration”

Throughout the five years preceding the outbreak of the Arab uprising in 2011, women formed an essential part of the social movement, which was shaped from the organized mass movements to seize rights or achieve economical gains, or repel perils surrounding the community or sector of the population (like displacement, forced eviction, thwart the liquidation of industrial facilities).

So we can say that women’s participation in preparation of the revolution is an undeniable fact, which is represented in their involvement in movements prior to the revolution, in which she lead the front lines in the protests shaping the scene of the social movement, whether it was at the universities, the factories, or among poverty belts where slogans were raised calling for improved services.

The authority sought to denigrate women, to pressure them, and to confine their participation in the political and social movements, specially with the emergence of women leaders within the protest movement. The confrontational and confinement tactics were epitomized by bereaving them from their studies, making them redundant (sacking them), defaming them and reaching an extent of physically assaulting them.

In this context and in May 2005, an assault on a group of female activists took place during a protest in front of the Press Syndicate which was organized by “Kefaya” movement, it was dubbed by the media as “Black Wednesday”. One year later, three women from the neighborhood of “Kala’a El-Kabsh” were jailed on charges of agitation and leading demonstration demanding housing allocation for the people of their area, to replace the ones which were torched overnight. It was elucidated later that this incident was part of the forced eviction mechanism.

Moreover, factories’ management targeted their attacks on female worker leaders by either discharging and dislocating them, specially the influential ones. The foregoing illustrates that Egyptian women had never been nonattendant in the public field during the periods of (الحراك (

Outbreak of the Revolutions and the Violence Persist

Despite the sacrifices and the contributions made by women, she is still subject to practices incarnated in forms of violence and discrimination (segregation), it became vehemently present and on the rise post the Arab revolution.

By violence we mean every act that would inflict damage and harm to the human beings, physical or psychological, coerce them into certain act, or diminish of their liberty, menacing them materialistically or morally, and the use of intimidation and repression as a tool for creating an

individual or a society exhibiting great docility.

Ergo, in that sense, there exists several forms and sources of violence, although amidst the political movement, the state-driven violence toward women in the public domain obviously comes into view. A form of violence that is closely related to power and dominance and the imbalance between authority and society. It escalates every time an imbalance occurs in the relations of dominance, free space, and the position of the women’s sectors in terms of their support of or dissent from authority.

Perhaps the phenomenon of violence against women, the attempts to restrict women’s participation, and ultimately the overall defiance to it intersect with a number of other factors, among which is the frailty of the political structures and feminist organizations, the political blocs’ neglect to women’s issues, and their limited perception of women as instruments for mobilization and deployment. All that is seamlessly coupled with the conservative reactionary culture that rejects political and social change, and whose upholders could not care less about improving women’s conjunctures, since they only need to wield them in political battles.

It is safe to say then that the nature of the culture of masses is influenced by revolution, yet it does not change overnight, least of all with the limited efforts that highlight women’s issues among the change programs of the revolutions.

What is more, the lack of any real arrangement amid the popular classes (the fuel of the revolution) has contributed to the persistence of gender and class-oriented discrimination, let alone utilizing it in political conflicts.

The fate of the Arab revolutions and their numerous stumbles, and the rise of powers that do not stand for their goals have also been reasons as

why the conditions of women relapsed.

yara يارا رفعت  سلام  قانون التظاهر

yara 

 

This way, the objective causes pertinent to women’s status and the societies and their structures have sided with the subjective causes that have to do with the existing political forms, which neglected women’s issues and failed to construct a vision that accounts for their peculiarity and status.

This complex twisted situation has treated the women’s demands for justice, equality and disapproval of discrimination and violence with irreverence. Even worse, fears over women’s positions and violated rights have soared as more calls for discrimination emerged, some of which attempted to legalize and constitutionalize it, particularly with a myriad of retrograde voices that surged crying to legitimize the right to use violence and ingrain the phenomenon of prejudice against women. By nature, those notions are inseparable from the exercises of the authority, which itself stands against women’s participation.

And despite the change of the form of authority again, following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, the 50-member committee, entrusted to write the constitution, showed by their vote count on Article 11, which states that the constitution shall sustain women’s right to hold positions in judiciary without prejudice, that 21% of the committee voted against that article.

Indicators of violence and political exploitation

The Egyptian woman has been subject, for three years, to the mechanism of political exploitation, in which carrots and sticks were used such as denouncing women’s participation in the political arena, and intimidating them of the presence in the revolution squares. Even the crimes of the regime prior to the January 25 revolution were revived with the violations committed by the military council and the propaganda campaigns against women’s presence in the public domain. Those campaigns took the form of questioning the moral integrity of the female dissidents and the other women who resisted the rule of the SCAF and took to the squares, stood up to batons and bullets, and faced arrest and underwent demeaning virginity tests.

The currents of political Islam have also contributed to igniting agitation against women, and declaring women’s participation in protests religiously forbidden, and accusing those who do participate of immorality. A glaring example is the incident of forcibly stripping a female protester in Tehrir square by security officers, propagated by the media as “the lady of the girls”, who was slandered and even had her ordeal justified under the pretext that she was wearing a snap-fastened cloak, in a sexual gesture to the ease of undressing.

After the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, the practice of state violence has endured, as hundreds of female students and women –even minors- were jailed and suffered assaults, for nothing but protest. A woman was arrested in the library of Alexandria, because she allegedly held a

 notebook that contained phrases counter to the June 30revolution.

We could also inset the case of the detained girls, better known as “7 A.M”, in the same context, where the girls were given severe sentences and later on found innocent and were released. The amusing part is the authority has not returned any such stiff verdicts in many cases relevant to political corruption or the murders of protesters, yet it convicted the girls of “7 A.M” in a month, whereas most of Hosni Mubarak’s entourage remain free and some of their cases are still under review. Likewise, 200 pro- Brotherhood Azhar female students were arrested during demonstrations that witnessed mutual violence between the police and the students on one hand, and the students and professors on the other hand. Female students opposed to the dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood students’ sit-in in the university assaulted two female professors. By the same token, tens of the organizers of the demonstrations against the “protest law” and those who demonstrated to call for the release of the detainees, were abused, in the wake of their protest, in addition to tens of women who were shot and killed during the dismantle  of Raaba’s sit-in.

Concordantly, one dare say that the Egyptian state and its successive governments since 2011 has committed a multitude of crimes, the women

was one of whose victims.

From the above, we clearly conclude that the Egyptian woman donates generously to the bill of change and suffers attempts of domination and exploitation by the authority and political currents in political conflicts whether by exclusion, imputation, harassment, detention, or taking advantage of her as a tool for mobilization and support. The situation does not differ much here with regard to intellectual and political affiliation, for among those standing behind bars are girls that belong to the secular, liberal and leftist camps, which opposed the Muslim Brotherhood and

ousted them, such as Yara Refaat Salam and Mahinor El-Masry.

العنف ضد النساء  فى المجال العام

العنف ضد النساء فى المجال العام

essam shaban

essamred@gmail.com

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