Once upon a time, he saw her walking down the street.
He checked her out and she appealed to him.
He ran out of patience, followed her to an area where no one was around and physically harassed her.
She screamed for help and tried to resist, but eventually gave in to his violence.
He raped her and ran away.
She was damned for life and he lived happily ever after.
Could you believe that this, put in very simple terms, is exactly what happens in our society; rich in views that practically have the upper hand over both religion and law?
Islam and Christianity condemn rape by all means. Both religions consider it to be a sin… basically because it’s a form of premarital sex, that’s not even agreed on; but forced upon the victim… and this places rape in a punishable category.
Similarly, Egyptian law condemns rape and takes the side of the girl. The law that went earlier in Egypt allowed the rapist to escape punishment if he proposed marriage to the victim. However, fortunately enough in 1999 it was changed into another that necessitates punishing the rapist no matter what he tries to do. The period of imprisonment, according to the current law, ranges between 3 and 25 years; depending on how close the rapist is to the victim… the more related they are, the longer he is made to stay in prison.
That’s promising! Obviously, the victim’s right is preserved by religion and law. What is the problem then?
Well… it’s not as bright as it seems. Culture dominates everything in Egypt. And according to our culture, ‘honor’ is the number one concern; where ‘honor’ is a synonym for ‘virginity’. As a result, rape, the crime that takes away virginity; also known as honor, is dealt with in a way that is different from theft, murder or any other crime.
If a girl is robbed, she wouldn’t hesitate to go to a police station to report… it is her right. But if a girl is raped, she would do anything but report… it is scandalous and shameful.
Breaking such news, according to the majority of Egyptians, ruins the reputation of the victim and her family and would definitely make it extremely hard, if not impossible, for her story to cease being subject to gossip among her neighborhood or for her to find a husband in the future, she was raped, and this makes her immoral and worthless.
As a result of girls not reporting, statistics on incidents of rape in Egypt are unavailable. However, a study conducted in Alexandria showed that 47% of women murdered were killed by a relative after a rape.
A girl who survives rape, whose misery is not much less than those who did not, turns to alternative ways to solve the problem; she either commits suicide, runs away from her family house for fear her parents should not believe that her loss of virginity was forced upon her, let’s her parents know the whole story and try to convince the rapist to marry the girl even for twenty four hours, or simply goes to a clinic and gets her hymen repaired through a commonly performed operation. This happens, of course, if she was lucky enough that the rapist did not get her pregnant.
But does running away, getting the rapist to marry the victim or fixing the hymen really fix the problem?
Is it fair to deal with the victim’s misery by treating her just as if she was part of the crime? And is it okay to keep the rapist free, when he’s the one to blame?
Under normal circumstances, the consequences of rape on a girl are extremely harsh; a victim suffers on the short term from ‘silence syndrome’ where she withdraws from eating, drinking, talking and sleeping. She also suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, experiencing nightmares that include flashbacks of the horrible experience she was exposed to. Later on, she’s likely to experience feelings of guilt, lack of appetite, lack of concentration and sleep disturbances. On the long term, marital problems are inevitable as a victim relates any sexual contact to the tragic experience they got into years back. In addition, she’s more likely to develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
She’s tortured all her life… isn’t this traumatic enough?
Unfortunately, in addition to this list of hardships, our society poses even more burden on the victim; where the ‘shame and guilt’ factor is added up.
A study that was conducted by Mass Communication students in AUC on “Attitudes towards Reporting Rape in Egypt” showed that the 80% of their interviewees believed it was better not to report an incident of rape; as it was considered shameful and disreputable. In addition, 80% considered rape to be entirely the girl’s fault as they believed the way she a girl is dressed could be seductive, 10% believed it was the rapist’s fault and another 10% believed both parties were to blame. 90% said they would not marry or advise any of their close relatives to marry a girl who was raped in the past. It is worth mentioning that the sample interviewed for this study belonged entirely to C and D classes; the most exposed category to incidents of rape as they are poor and powerless.
Culture, which dominates the way we think, is nothing; but a potentially changeable, man made network of views; sometimes devoid of any rational foundation. So don’t you think that a culture that blames the victim and goes against religion and law is in need of reconsideration?
Personally, I believe it is in desperate need of change, a drastic to-the-much-better change. And the first needed step is to acknowledge the existence of a problem that we need to get over. Next, a holistic plan needs to be applied to all the various categories in our society, where education and media would work together on changing the currently existing perceptions of those belonging to all social classes, age groups, religious views and both sexes.
It is about time we think logically and face our problems; instead of thinking that the ‘escape’ key exists in reality. It never did and never will.
Rape exists in Egypt and it is a crime, where the rapist is the one to blame, not just blame, but he deserves to be punished and this will never happen unless victims come out and report. Running away, getting married to the rapist and repairing hymen won’t get regain anybody’s honor.
Let’s hope for the day when rape is treated by Egyptians as a crime, when rapists are treated as criminals that deserve to be punished and victims are dealt with as human beings, that day when potential rapists are discouraged because being a “rapist”, not a “victim” is too shameful and dishonoring, and when our society puts an end to girls’ misery.
* Special thanks to everyone who collaborated in gathering the required information on rape in Egypt.