By Mohamed Samir / Reuters
CAIRO: A number of women’s rights groups are planning marches to commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8, downplaying a repeat of last year’s scenario when some men infiltrated the march and harassed the women.
While Mozn Hassan, director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, a women’s rights-focused research organization, said that “anything is expected,” she added that “this year is different as numerous groups, movements, coalitions and political parties are joining the march.”
The women’s groups also gained momentum after the success of the last women’s march on Dec. 20, when thousands of Egyptian women took to the streets of downtown denouncing the excessive use of violence against female protesters.
It was the biggest women’s march drawing around 6,000 women and around 2,000 men, who marched from Tahrir Square to the Journalists’ Syndicate.
This year’s march will take off from the Journalists’ Syndicate at 4:00 pm and will head to the People’s Assembly.
“After all of what the Egyptian woman has faced from violations and inequality, and the patriarchal state which refuses her existence, the Egyptian woman will go out on March 8, as she did on January 25, calling on completing the demands of the revolution and reasserting their citizenship rights and equality between all males and females,” said the Egyptian Coalition of Feminist Organizations in a statement.
The coalition comprises over 20 women’s rights groups including the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, New Women Foundation and the Egyptian Women for Change, among others.
There is also another march planned on March 9, the first anniversary of the notorious virginity checks.
“March 9 is the day the virginity checks were conducted last year so many find it important to mark that day and call on women’s rights, justice and equality,” Hassan said.
Military police officers conducted virginity checks on 17 female protesters in military prison following their arrest in Tahrir. They were later released after being given suspended prison sentences.
Parallel events are also planned in commemoration of International Women’s Day, including blogging and tweeting about women’s rights, as well as young artists doing graffiti Downtown, according to Hassan.
Last year, less than a month after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a Million Women March to Tahrir Square marking International Women’s Day went awry as women were harassed and forced out of the square.
Some men who infiltrated the march chanted against the women, claiming it was “not the right time” to address women’s issues.
In her 2012 International Women’s Day message, Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet underlines urgent actions needed to ensure gender equality.
“Women’s full and equal participation in the political and economic arena is fundamental to democracy and justice, which people are demanding. Equal rights and opportunity underpin healthy economies and societies.
“Every human being has the right to live in peace and dignity. Every human being has the right to shape their future and the futures of their countries. That is the call for equality that I hear wherever I go,” she said.