An Egyptian Rapper Is Using Her Music to

Fight Back Against Sexual Harassment

By Sara Yasin June 9, 2014
"I realized all the male rappers must have a track in which they talk
about girls and their clothes, blaming girls for everything happening
around us," said 19-year-old Mayam Mahmoud, an Egyptian rapper.
"That wasn't right. So I rapped about girls and the problems they
Mahmoud, who rose to fame after competing on Arabs Got Talent, is
using her music to hit back at Egypt's troubles with sexual
Object 1
"You catcall and harass, thinking this is right," Mahmoud raps in one of
her songs. "Even if these are just words, this is not how you treat
[women], you're throwing stones."
She's part of a wider group of young people and activists who have
been using art to speak out against the country's endemic problems
with sexual harassment.
Image Credit: AP. A mural against sexual harassment in Cairo, that
says "no harassment" in Arabic.
Just on Sunday night, Egypt's Tahrir Square saw a horrifying sexual
assault, where a woman was seized by a crowd celebrating the
inauguration of former military general Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi as
president. The brutal moment was caught in a short, two-minute
video, where the university student was undressed and assaulted
by men in the crowd.
Egypt's government has criminalized sexual harassment recently,
and seven people have nowbeen arrested for the attack. But some
rights groups estimated nine attacks in total that night.
According to blogger Fatima Said, the new law runs the risk of being
mostly a hollow gesture, since the government usually allows these
attacks to go unpunished. She also argues that as long as the
country's current government — which came to power through a
military coup that toppled now-jailed president Mohamed Morsi last
June — is still in place, the hopes for concrete action on this
problem are slim:
"The state simply does not care about women's rights. It is happy to
exploit them for photo opportunities and use them as tokens to
advance their own political agendas, but as long as the malfeasant
authorities continue to operate through a corrupt framework, no law
will bring about any difference, and as long as society continues to
blame and shame the victim instead of the perpetrator, nothing will
change. For now, the anti-sexual harassment law is nothing more
than ink on paper."

Image Credit: AP. A protester against sexual harassment holds up a
sign that says "No!" during a demonstration in Cairo.
Some supporters of the military general (who won in an election that
was not "genuinely democratic," according to international
observers) have been dismissive of the reported assaults. During a
report showing the jubilant crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Tahrir
TV anchorwoman Maha Bahnasy sparked outrage after making light
of the attacks, saying, "Well, they are happy. The people are having
But sexual harassment is hardly a matter to laugh at, particularly in
Egypt. According to Harass Map, an organization that documents
and reports on sexual harassment in the country, 99.3% of female
respondents said they experienced sexual harassment on some
level. More worrying: 59.9% of respondents said that they
experienced physical harassment.

Image Credit: AP. Women protest against sexual harassment on
January 25, 2012.
According to a statement released by a coalition of 25 rights groups,
Egypt has seen more than 250 cases of mass sexual assault
between November 2012 and January 2014. The statement, issued
by Nazra for Feminist Studies, condemned the culture of impunity
around these attacks: "The state continues to be unable to stand up
to these crimes."
Until then, it's important that artists like Mahmoud and the other
groups that dedicate their their work to stopping sexual harassment
create spaces for women to speak up and share their experiences.

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