Sexual Harassment in Egypt (Hijab won’t stop it)

Almost half of Egyptian women are sexually harassed on a daily basis with more than half of Egyptian men admitting lewd behaviour, the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights said on Thursday.

The group polled 2,020 people — including men and foreign women — in Cairo, and the centre’s director, Nihad Abul Qomsan, said that the figures showed harassment was on the rise.

Of those surveyed, 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women said they had been harassed at some point, while 46 percent of Egyptian women and 52 percent of foreign women said they were harassed daily.

Most women said they were harassed in the street or on public transport, with harassment defined as “any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature which makes women feel uneasy and gives them a feeling of insecurity.”

Abul Qomsan said that almost two-thirds of Egyptian men — 62 percent — admitted harassing women, including those wearing Islamic headscarves.

“This shows that the belief that harassment is linked to women who wear indecent clothing is false,” she said, condemning the fact that in the deeply religious country women often feel responsible despite being victims.

The centre said that last year only 12 percent of women went to the police with a harassment complaint.

In 2006, women’s rights activists angrily spoke out against what they called the authorities’ acceptance of sexual harassment against women, after a mob of men openly molested women in central Cairo.

The interior ministry said it did not receive any formal complaints and has never admitted any mass harassment occurred despite the incident being widely reported in the press and some bloggers posting footage on the Internet.

Saudi wife arrested after going for an illegal drive

A woman has been arrested for breaking Saudi Arabia’s ban on female drivers.

She was stopped by a police patrol after driving six miles to collect her husband near their home in the town of Buraida.

As her ‘legal guardian’ he had to sign a declaration that he would not let his wife drive again.

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Saudi women look at a new car

Saudi women look under the bonnet of a new car at a showroom in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where women sell cars to female buyers. Although women are banned from driving in Saudi Arabia, they can own cars

It is not yet known if she has been released or if she faces legal action.

Saudi Arabia is the only country that forbids women from driving.

The ban is based on religious rulings from clerics who say it is un-Islamic.

Civil rights activists in the country have begun lobbying the government to lift the ban.

Religious Authority Warns Women against Perfume, Flirtation (Turkey)

Secular Turks say the government’s religious authority has gone too far by advising women not to flirt with strangers or wear perfume outside their homes. The article is expected to further inflame a debate about the role of religion in the secular nation.

Is wearing perfume a sin? Or casting a flirtatious gaze at a man? According to an article recently published on the Web site of Turkey’s directorate for religious affairs, Diyanet, it is.

The article, which is drawing criticism in Turkey and raising attention abroad, essentially chalks women up as walking aphrodisiacs and puts the onus on them to cover up and prevent themselves from sexually stimulating men in any way outside their homes.

“Women have to be more careful, since they have stimulants,” the article states, according to a report in the Guardian. “The women communicating with strange men should speak in a manner that will not arouse suspicion in one’s heart and in such seriousness and dignity that they will not let the opposite party misunderstand them, that they should not show their adornments and figure and that they should cover in a fine manner.” It even goes so far as to equate flirtation with adultery, according to critics.

The article also discourages women from wearing perfume. “His highness the Prophet Muhammad did not think kindly of women who put on perfumes outside their homes and go strolling and saw this as immoral behavior,” it continues.

The article also reportedly said women should not spend time together with men in private unless married and questioned the virtues of mixed-sex workplaces.

Generally, Diyanet has promoted a moderate form of Islam and the article threatens to further inflame a roaring debate about the role of religion in what is constitutionally a secular state. The Islam-rooted Justice and Development Party of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is currently facing a legal challenge in the country’s highest court, accused of undermining the secular principles upon which Turkey was founded, and faces the possibility of a ban in the future.

“It’s like a comedy,” writes Yusuf Kanli, a columnist with the pro-secular Turkish Daily News, “but the article appeared on the Web site of a state institution that is supposed to regulate the practice of Islam in the country according to the teachings (as perceived by the Turkish government) of Islam rather than those of some Islamist orders or brotherhood organizations. … Is this mentality different at all with that of the Taliban that placed Afghan women behind chadors?”

Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, established Diyanet in 1924 to ensure that Islam did not interfere with the country’s strictly secular government. Although Diyanet has no legal authority, it is highly influential as the custodian of the Muslim faith in the country. It is in charge of the country’s 70,000 clerics and is also responsible for appointing Turkey’s imams.