Penang losing its ‘charm’ and ‘character’
2 days ago
Right around the corner from our school is an all boys school similar in age group to ours, so we knew what was out there waiting for us every day after school. But it wasn’t exclusive to naughty school boy behavior, we had adult men who also used to wait for the final bell to ring and the thousands of girls to come out. We had a guy who looked like a father of any one of us, a lawyer or a businessman carrying a briefcase, who used to stand there outside of our school every single day. Once the girls started to leave the school he would swiftly move his briefcase, exposing his penis to us. As children we would run away, some laughing and some crying. But he wasn’t the only one. A building guard, or bowab as they are called in Egypt, who worked in a nearby building, a 60-something old man who wore the traditional male dress and sat on his bench watching the street. Once we passed by him, he would lift up his dress and expose his naked flesh to us. We stopped walking by that building and warned other girls as well.When the problem became overwhelming and parents started to complain to the school and the police, the authorities and the Qasr al-Nil police station sent a police car that stood there outside of our school everyday during my senior year. Problems were getting out of hand and leaving the school meant being exposed to the worst of human nature. That was in late 1999, but the problem has not improved, not even slightly, since. In fact it became widespread to the point where mothers are hiding horror stories of what happens to their girls in school, fearing the father would prevent them from having an education.
I tell my 14-year old daughter to look at her shoes at all times when she is leaving school and I make sure that I am there waiting for her before the final bell rings. “Her father made her wear a veil when she started exhibiting signs of puberty, thinking he is protecting her and for me to tell him of what lies outside her school will only make him sit her at home.Now sexual harassment is no stranger to the experience of being a female in Egypt; in fact it became a fundamental element of being outdoors. Last week, the National Council for Women (NCW) said that Egyptian women get harassed 7 times every 200 meters, and a 2008 report by the Egyptian Center for Women Rights found that well over two-thirds of Egyptian women are harassed on daily basis. Even activists who protest the grotesque practice are also harassed, defying logic.