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Egyptian women resist harassment with short dresses

As onlookers watched on in silent amazement, the women waved signs carrying the message against harassement

Published: Updated:

A group of Egyptian women have resorted to a new and original way to fight sexual harassment during a march in the capital, Cairo - wearing short dresses.

As onlookers watched on in silent amazement, the women waved signs carrying the message: "we are wearing the dresses of the past, we want the streets of the past”. The message was referring to the sixties and seventies when women’s skirts and dresses were fashionably much shorter, but they received less unwelcomed attention.

Dr Riham Atef, the organizer of the march, told Al Arabiya.Net: “The concept behind this march is inspired by European traditions… We wanted to take part in the movement and raise awareness of the problem of sexual harassment in Egypt’s streets.”

She said that although Egyptian women dressed modestly, they were still exposed to violent, verbal and sexual harassment. This bad reputation has earned Egypt a high ranking in the list of countries where sexual harassment is a problem, just after Afghanistan. And she stressed that the current laws did not deter offenders, especially in a culture where women refuse to report their aggressors, fearing scandal.

Atef said the idea behind wearing short clothing in the march was intended to "shock the community”, as the women of the sixties and seventies enjoyed wearing fashionable trends and did not appear to be subjected to the same levels of harassment.

She added: “Nor did the phenomenon exist all together. Indeed, the prevailing morality of the past endowed women with a respectful status whenever they were in the streets, in public transportations, universities and clubs, so we wanted to march, to remind the community that we as women want to return to the morals and the streets of the past.”

*This article also appears on AlArabiya.net.