A Social Cancer: The Case of Harassment and Public Opinion.

Basant the girl who went from being the victim of group sexual harassment into a hero to some and a villain to others overnight.

Another day in Egypt and another case of sexual harassment. On the 10th of December,  a 23 year old girl from Meet Ghamr called Bassant suffered from a traumatic incident. Over 150 males followed Bassant around “Port Saied” street till she was surrounded and cornered by them. Some of them kept catcalling her and saying degrading things to her. Then there were those who were grabbing her, clawing at her clothes and her body.

Cornered, unable to escape, and being forced to endure such horrific harassment while spectators recorded videos just to share all over social media or others who pretended nothing was happening; until one man stood up for the injustice, helped her escape and drove her home. Feeling alone, traumatized, and violated Bassant felt like she has nowhere else to seek help other than twitter. Fortunately, Bassant found nothing but support on Twitter where she was encouraged to take action and go report her harassers.

After Basant filed out the report, the police took immediate action and collected footage from stores close to the incident and started to identify anyone present in that group. While studying the footage, seven guys were successfully identified and instantly arrested. Throughout the investigation the seven guys maintained the story that they were simply passing by when they noticed the huge group huddled up, leading them to get closer to observe what was happening. They claim that when they were caught on tape standing close to the incident, they were just watching, and then they left. Once the seven guys were arrested and a decision to imprison them for almost two weeks for further investigation was taken, Bassant found herself bombarded with threatening DMs and blackmail from the arrestees’ families and friends to her and her family.

From threats of fabricated crimes to put her behind bars, to threatening her by throwing acid in her face. Her family weren’t spared from the threats and harassment as well. As if going through this traumatic event wasn’t enough, Bassant and her family are also facing threats of eviction from their landlord. Furthermore, her lawyer abandoned her case, citing personal issues and problems with his family and community member as reasons; thankfully she still has her lawyers from the “Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights”. The supporters of the alleged harassers didn’t stop there, their relatives and team of lawyers have gone on a rampage of sharing her private pictures, slut-shaming her and victim blaming her. Pictures of her added fire to the controversy and restarted the debate of the relationship between the victim’s clothes and the harassment they face leading to Bassant facing a case for violating the values of the society; turned from a victim into a criminal by the suspects and their lawyers.

As this is an ongoing case, all finer details are still unclear so we are unable to write a detailed article about the criminal action. After all currently it is a case of “he said, she said”. Once the proof and footage are released openly, the public then would be able to have a clear and objective verdict. Furthermore, it might be that seven of those present during the harassment incident were caught, there is still more than 150 of those criminals out there, walking among us, interacting with us and they are still a danger to every girl in Egypt.

Bassant is one of the first victims of gang sexual assault to come out, reveal her identity, and seek justice from those criminals. In the shadow of such an incident, which was another one among many to throw light on how Egypt has a large history with sexual harassments (SH) problems, which is demonstrated through the “Arab Barometer’s 5th wave” that unfortunately Egypt is ranked as the first country with (SH) in the Arab world. Hence, encouraging girls who face such injustice to speak up should be one of our priorities as a society.

In the sake of taking an action, speaking up, and spreading awareness, it became vital and inevitable to be aware of the definition of  this “Social Cancer”, which is described by “ECWR” as any kind of unwelcomed sexual advance, unwelcomed request  for sexual favor, or unwelcomed  conduct of sexual nature which make the person offended and humiliated.

The fact is the society itself can put an end to it by simply following such a positive equation of “Situation +Response = Result”. Its first step is when the members of the country accept and acknowledge their ignorance of such disgraceful situation with all its rotten roots of thoughts and misuse of power. Then the society, including parents, government, educational institutions, police officers, basically all individuals, can take further steps in building new healthy and safe social structure through awareness; through strengthening the enforcement of law and easing the convenience of filing suits procedures.

All the support to all the survivors of this Social Cancer.