Ending social acceptability of sexual harassment in Egypt
HarassMap is using crowd-mapping as a tool to end the culture of impunity around sexual harassment and assault in Egypt, a country where 99.3 % have experienced sexual harassment. (2013 UN women study)
The initiative, founded by four women in late 2010 but only funded since 2012, uses the same technology as Ushahidi did in mapping violence in Kenya’s 2007 elections — a simple and anonymous online and mobile reporting system. This lets anyone report and detail each instance of attack, filed by category, from ogling and cat-calling, to indecent exposure and outright rape.
Reporters get an instant, automated message of support: such as where to get legal aid, psychological counselling, learn self-defense and how to make a police report. The data generated from the aggregated reports allows the initiative to properly size the problem of sexual harassment in Egypt, and track trends in age, class or dress, for example, of victim or abuser, pinpoint places where harassment takes place, and to rouse people to stand up against it.
This evidence has already helped the initiative engineer a big shift in how the Egyptian media reports sexual harassment and assault. It also, vitally, gives their network of hundreds of trained volunteers the ammunition they need to change minds at street level.
This is HarassMap’s primary goal, because they say harassers will continue to harass with impunity, and no law against sexual harassment will be enforced, as long as it is considered socially acceptable and as long as people tolerate it in their presence without doing anything to stop it.
HarassMap’s volunteers go into their neighbourhoods and communities and use the hard and distressing facts about sexual harassment and assault to challenge a culture that condones, excuses or finds such behaviour funny even. The volunteers address common myths with their statistics: the idea that a woman might have been ‘asking for it’ due to her dress for instance. Victims’ and volunteers’ stories often bring the issue alive for people on the ground, and the volunteers encourage them to stand up and intervene when they witness an attack instead of turning a blind eye.
The initiative has given training and technical assistance to activists from more than 28 other countries to run similar projects, everywhere from Palestine and Yemen to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria, India and the UK.
Last updated: 30th of July, 2014