Soraya Bahgat, founder of anti-sexual harassment organisation Tahrir Bodyguard, spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum on Tuesday on the role of women in Egypt in the revolution and their status since former president Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.
“Women are an integral part of the Egyptian revolution and are credited with bringing down the Mubarak regime,” Bahgat said.
She described the courage that women showed in protesting alongside men in January 2011 and denounced the attacks and harassment they have faced since then.
Seventeen women have been forced to undergo humiliating virginity tests by the military. Several female activists have been detained without warrant and subjected to sexual abuse by security forces, Bahgat said.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women recently published a report saying that 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment in their lives.
In her speech, Bahgat described the mass sexual assaults that women have faced at large protests. The government has failed to protect women from these attacks, Bahgat said.
“So the citizens of Egypt have chosen to act where the government has failed,” Bahgat stated, describing the movements created to defend women against sexual assault at protests, such as Tahrir Bodyguard.
Another initiative to combat sexual assault is the I Saw Harassment initiative, which set up a campaign during Sham El-Nessim to monitor instances of sexual harassment along the Nile Corniche throughout the holiday.
Such initiatives will continue their work until the problem ends, Bahgat said.
“We’re putting up a fight, we’re not afraid,” Bahgat said. “When they tried to silence Egyptian women, we became even more defiant.”
The Oslo Freedom Forum, established in 2011, brings together speakers from across the world to discuss pressing humanitarian issues.
Additional reporting by Basil El-Dabh and Nouran El-Behairy