HarassMap: Fight Against Sexual Harassment

Case study: HarassMap – Changing Attitudes to Harassment and Assault in Egypt

“A bunch oScreen Shot 2016-02-21 at 8.53.19 PM.pngf children just sexually harassed me and cursed at me in the subway at Mahatet El Zahraa”

“I was walking home late at night and a taxi driver pulled up in front of me, parked the car, got out and unzipped his pants and started touching himself…”

“Two men were touching my butt and tried to touch my breast… It seemed they tried to rape me. Fortunately, I could run away.”

HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt

The above statements illustrate the harsh realities of sexual harassment which occur in Egypt. The reality is that 99.3% of Egyptian women report being sexually harassed and of those 99.3%, 49.2%, almost half, report that it occurs on a daily basis. Furthermore, most sexual harassment goes unreported due to the stigma and shame that the victims face. Fortunately, in 2010, Rebecca Chiao developed HarassMap, which is a “crowdsourcing-based advocacy, prevention, and response tool that maps incidents of sexual harassment.” Ultimately, HarassMap goal is to “overcome the cultural and institutional barriers that otherwise prevent women from reporting harassment.”

One of the benefits of HarassMap is in regards to the individual. This platform allows victims to report their experiences anonymously, which in turn, takes away the fear that may come from identifying themselves and the social stigma and shame associated with it. Also, it is able to gather information on issues pertaining to formal law enforcement channels. Firstly, sexual harassment is rarely reported to formal law enforcement because victims fear “retaliation, rejection, ostracism, or reputational damage.” On top of victims having to go through sexual harassment, they cannot even freely and comfortably go to formal law enforcement because the harassment, from being retaliated against, having your reputation damaged, etc., never ends. Furthermore, police officers tend to be the “worst harassers,” which illustrate the severity of the problem. Secondly, the victims of sexual harassment often do not come forward to report their experience because they have “little faith that anything will be done.”

One of the limitations of HarassMap is that there is little control of what happens after the victim shares their experience online. There is danger of human rights abuse that comes if “oppressive officials” want to identity who shares their experience. So, even though it is anonymous, in extreme cases, it might not be safe.

Although HarassMap has some limitations, it is still a platform that has allowed for a potential breakthrough in the fight against sexual harassment. It starts a conversation of the realities of what is happening in Egypt in regards with sexual harassment. Though this is a small step, it is a big step towards bringing change.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 8.36.51 PM.png

Advertisements
HarassMap: Fight Against Sexual Harassment

HarassMap: Reporting sexual violence in the wake of the Arab Spring

This week’s Film and Media Studies readings, Case study: Harassmap–Changing Attitudes to Harassment and Assault in Egypt by Abir Ghattas @girleffect and HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt by Chelsea Young, were definitely inspirational and very informative. The fact that women in male dominated societies like Egypt, are treated as if their rights don’t matter, and that what happens to them is not as important as what happens to men is repulsive. It is also horrifying to know that both men and women would allow a woman to be sexually harassed and/or assaulted without helping or at least attempting to stop the violence against them. However, with campaigns like HarassMap, Egyptian society has a voice to communally stand against gender violence towards women allowing them to report women’s rights violations and begin to break the horrible cycle of attacks on a woman’s ability to live without fear. As an American citizen, I do not see how sexual violence in any form is “cool” or tolerable. Yet, it is acceptable by Egyptian men to be consider violations against women, as a form of being masculine or even worse being Egyptian. With the efforts of volunteers and community leadership, the enduring women of Egypt now have the ability to report attacks on their inherent human rights as women and still feel safe without being shamed and their names and information being released.

In a country that once gave birth to one of the most influential and well known women in power, Cleopatra, it is astonishing that Egypt now has a problem with the rights and well-being of its women. HarassMap aims to help women achieve an equality of rights and to hold those who harass and violate women, accountable for their actions. The campaign/movement is also very influential in its efforts to support those who help and volunteer with communities that are safeguarded by a company serious about its stance on violence and aggression towards women. The idea that building social accountability and social responsibility creates social consequences against perpetrators is extraordinary. I think having a reporting system that collects data on women’s rights violations is exceptionally important and will continue to be an important tool for the Egyptian society to both fight against and stop the unjust violent and non-violent attacks on women. HarassMap is not only an empowering and innovative technology, it also gives both men and women the support and anonymity they need to stand in response against gender violence and harassment in oppressive regime controlled societies.

HarassMap: Reporting sexual violence in the wake of the Arab Spring

Sexual Harassment in Egypt: Social Taboo or Legitimate illegal act?

How far does one go to make a difference of making a social taboo to talk about into an open conversation? This was one of several questions that went through my mind while reading different articles about the rise of sexual harassment towards women in Egypt. From looking through a set of graphics about the subject matter it was a larger deal then what I presumed. At first I thought these cases of sexual harassment these women are dealing with from cat calls from strangers to men openly asking to have sex with them. But as I read more of these articles, it was more than just that. Some cases was mentioned some of these women were actually groped and other inappropriate physical contact that is only a few steps away for situations like this escalating to a full on rape attempt. That was shocking at first, but the first two articles discussed an app that could help inform, promote and communicate with others. The app that was mentioned called Harrassmap, from the reading it mentions one of the primary functions was to list helpful tips and resources for these women who have been sexual harassed. Furthermore it’s trying to established “safe zones”, general safe havens that help deter that kind of behavior and if needed stop the altercation altogether. The other article that talked about this program in more detail talked about the long term benefits, from on an individual level to a national scale. I liked when it listed some of the secondary features of the program. It uses data collecting to inform and displayed listed or potential offenders in a specific area. This program really reminds of an American website called Megan’s Law, which uses data collecting to display and inform the general public of registered sex offenders living near any said area.

So overall I found these articles made me feel more hopeful about all these issues happening in the Middle East in general from past readings. For once I think that this one digital campaign idea/concept is gaining progress and actually making a dramatic difference in people’s lives.

Sexual Harassment in Egypt: Social Taboo or Legitimate illegal act?

HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harrasment in Egypt

The first data presented to us in this reading is shocking enough as 99.3% of women in Egypt report being sexually harassed and 49.2% report that this harassment occurs on a daily basis. The problem is that they feel ashamed and scared therefore they don’t report it. It should be out there, people should know what’s happening and there should be a big change.

However there has been a first movement called HarassMap created by Rebecca Chiao and which in my opinion is very effective as it is an easy way to make people aware in a visual and more eye-catching manner. This has happened as it initiated being run by volunteers and then in 2012 it received a 2-year grant from Canada’s International Development Research Centre. It is a crowdsourcing-based advocacy, prevention and response tool for all the harassment that is happening in Egypt.

HarassMap collects the information for a posterior use throughout the society on offline mobilizations to try and make people aware and more conscious that accepting this type of behavior isn’t the right one. I will mention again that this idea is a very positive one for the problem we are facing as being unable to tell the World or even someone that you know will help that problems you are facing such as sexual harassment is denigrating and unacceptable, that’s why HarassMap allows the victims to anonymously report their sexual harassment stories.

Women in Egypt are seen as inferior and sexual harassment only makes this situation worse as it has a negative impact on the way they act and participate in the public sphere. They are coerced to act in certain ways, avoid eye contact, and basically be repressed in their own country every time they walk down the street or even worse, every time of the day no matter where they are. This new tool will benefit in many levels; personal, community, national and global as it will, in some way or another, create awareness throughout the population.

I don’t think one application will make a change, but surely it will open the eyes of the population and more awareness will appear. Hopefully with this increase in awareness the number of application as well will increase. Many people don’t see what’s happening so they just prefer not to think about it but this affects everyone even if you haven’t been through it.

HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harrasment in Egypt

Under the pretext of saving women

In the chapter „Feminist Insurrections and the Egyptian Revolution“ of his book, Paul Amar describes the unjust way in which women (and also men) have been treated by the Arab State Security. Women were sexually harassed and abused by baltagiyya, a group recruited by State Security to wreak havoc and discredit the protesters during the revolution. The apparent plan was to make the protestors look like a group of brutal, sexual predators. However, that image became less convincing when more and more women joined the protests, so instead of the men the women became the target for accusations and were presented as prostitutes.

While some groups like El-Nadeem made serious attempts to help (e.g. by providing medical treatment to victims of gendered or sexual attacks as well as actual sex-workers), others engaged in victim-blaming, such as Salafi organizations telling women to dress appropriately. Stricter laws on sexual harassment might have seemed like a good idea at first, but they could be misused by the police to arrest men for an innocent flirt and thereby lead to mass arrests under the pretext of sexual harassment.

The 2000 UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on “Women, Peace, and Security” has to be looked at with caution as well. It is meant to “legalize international armed interventions in response to rape, femicide, sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and peacekeeping operations” (Amar, 2015, 204-205), but can easily serve as an excuse to intervene in foreign affairs.

Even though it is not completely comparable, I couldn’t help but think of the Cologne New Year’s Eve events when reading the article. The responses to those attacks featured equally preposterous advice (e.g. staying an arm length away from men), generalized accusations (e.g. migrant men being banned from a public swimming pool) and others thinking that they know better how to handle the situation (e.g. blaming the police for not handling the situation correctly or the government for having let so many migrants enter the country in the first place). That also extends to parties from other countries, just look at Donald Trump’s response on Twitter. If Trump ever became president of the United States, he could use the UNSCR 1325 to spread his Islamophobia across the globe by intervening under the pretext of saving women.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

My idea for a digital activism campaign is not fully developed yet, but it also targets women’s rights in the Arab world. However, it is important that the campaign would start within the Arab community and is not brought forth by strangers telling them how to live their lives. Arab women could work on raising awareness for their rights, but not target only men but also other Arab women who submitted to a mostly paternalistic society. This is a tricky issue since a lot of values and beliefs are rooted in Islam and it mustn’t be the goal to decry people’s religion. The campaign would try to prevent situations like the following examples from happening:

Woman dies because paramedics barred access to all female campus

Schoolgirls barred from escaping fire

Female ISIS members beat women to death for lifting niqap

Woman tortured for violating dress code

The campaign needs an anchor point and probably also a more narrow focus. As part of the campaign a video could be created that shows a variety of women (some fully veiled, some wearing a headscarf, maybe even some unveiled). First, they all state that they are Muslim or are shown praying or doing something else that clearly portrays them as Muslim and following the rules of the Quran. The message would then shift to expressing that the rules of the Quran stop where people’s lives are being harmed.

Under the pretext of saving women