The issues of sexual harassment and gender-based violence have their deepest roots in a problematic conception of the notions of power and control.
That means, when there is an unequal distribution of power within the society, certain groups are always able to exert control over others in different ways. Starting from the bigger picture, the state apparatus in Egypt has enforced its power over the will of its citizens through decades of inflexible dictatorships, with total impunity, and through policies that support and perpetuate structural violence within the society, the state has been able to impose its will on the population.
All these years of drastic repression have caused and nurtured deep feelings of oppression, powerlessness and shame among the citizens. In addition to this, the high rates of unemployment, the increasing gap between the different socioeconomic classes and the widespread corruption throughout the country, have only cultivated dissatisfaction among the people. Throughout the years, the feeling of inferiority has affected Egyptians not only on a personal level but also on a national scale.
The wide variety of negligent actions carried out by the state has exacerbated the feelings of psychological inferiority and humiliation over time, which has led to have as a result material and more important, immaterial and psychological repercussions. It is some of these repercussions that led to the uprising in Egypt in January 2011.
Without considering the opinion of the people, Morsi’s government continues to perpetuate the structural violence that has affected Egypt for decades. Once more, the state nepotism feeds the feelings of powerlessness and inferiority of the people and again; these feelings are transformed into different behaviors. Sectors of the male Egyptian society reflect their sense of humiliation and shame into the willingness to participate in group harassments and the assault of vulnerable targets, which in this case, are women.
The chance of expressing power through gender-based violence is presented to these men as appealing, and as a way to redeem their feelings of inferiority and self-hatred. The attackers find that the state facilitates their task with a weak judiciary system that gives them impunity, and that does not ask for any kind of accountability.
In the post-revolution period, many things could have been achieved regarding women’s rights, but these demands were overshadowed by other causes such as national self-determination of democratic governance. Many men, including many revolutionaries who were in Tahrir demanding their freedom, however it was not the right moment to address the issues of women’s rights and gender equality.
Once the euphoria of the revolution was appeased, women have been blatantly excluded from the building of the new Egypt. Women do not have a representation in the government, and they have not had a voice in the drafting process of the new constitution.
With this new government, women face the threat of not only being ignored, but undermined and disrespected trough the different laws and policies implemented. Sexual violence continues to be an issue forgotten by an apathetic government that disregards its responsibility of guaranteeing the safety of its citizens, especially women.
The escalation of gender-based violence fueled by structural violence and worsening sociopolitical conditions, will never disappear nor decrease with the state policies that reinforces its impunity for criminals and the exclusion of women from the public sphere.