Egypt: HarassMap, a hi-tech weapon has been unveiled in the battle against sexual harassment in Egypt, where almost half the female population face unwanted attention from men every day.
HarassMap, a private venture that is set to launch later this year, will allow women to instantly report incidents of sexual harassment by sending a text message to a centralised computer. The victims will instantly receive a reply offering support and practical advice. These reports will be used to build up a detailed and publicly available map of harassment hotspots.
The project utilises an open-source mapping technology more commonly associated with humanitarian relief operations, and the activists behind it hope to transform social attitudes to the harassment of women and shame authorities into taking greater action to combat the problem.
“In the last couple of years, there has been a debate in Egypt over whether harassment of women on streets is a serious issue, or whether it’s something women are making up,” said Rebecca Chiao, one of the volunteers behind the project. “So, HarassMap will have an impact on the ground by revealing the extent of this problem.”
Although a number of draft laws dealing with sexual harassment are under consideration by parliament, there is still nothing on Egypt’s statute books that specifically prohibits harassment – blame for which is often placed on the victim rather than male perpetrators. Just weeks after a series of sexual assaults marred a public holiday two years ago, Egypt’s first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, accused the media of exaggerating the threat posed by sexual harassment and concerns about tarnishing the country’s image have continued to stifle debate on the subject.