On the first day of Ramadan, we woke up to a trending social media hashtag that calls on men to “cover up” their daughters during the holy month, so that people or men could fast “properly”.
The campaign Ostor Bentak #استر بنتك, is problematic on so many levels, but first things first, is Ogling & sexual harassment acceptable on any other non-Ramadan day?
The campaign supporters in several Arab countries, took to social media to attack what they described as “revealing clothes” worn by girls during Ramadan, claiming that young Muslim men are unable to fast when they are distracted by women’s clothes.
Keeping up with the sexist tone of the campaign, the campaign merely speaks to fathers or men, who are considered the sole decision makers and in control of women & what they wear.
The campaign which roughly translates to “cover up your daughter we want to fast” also faced wide backlash from social media users, who expressed in their tweets that the campaign makes excuses for harassers & blames women for what they choose to wear.
Linking fasting to women’s dress code during Ramadan, is a not a new paradox, women in Ramadan have received catcalls such as “Allahoma Eny Sa2em”, which in a non-sexual harassment context is a duaa that gives strength to those who fast.
Some Social media users pointed out that in Islam, men are actually supposed to look away when women pass by, Ghad el Basar.
Sarcasm also took a hit in response to this campaign, Egyptian renowned writer Khaled Montasser tweeted about a mock reverse campaign that calls on men to cover themselves up for Ramadan, so that women would be able to fast.
Another counter campaign, used the same hashtag motto but instead said “Raise your son, we want to walk down the street”.
Normalizing Sexual Harassment in Egypt & blaming women for the catcalls & sexual harassment they receive has long been aggravating to survivors of sexual harassment who find it challenging to speak up. The most common form of victim-blaming usually revolves around what the woman was wearing at the time.
Several organizations that work on women rights have worked on several campaigns to raise awareness on the issue & debunk myths about the relevance of the dress code of women.
In 2012, Egyptian NGO HarassMap worked on a campaign that addresses excuses of sexual harassment, by asking: “If the reason for sexual harassment is how women dress, why do niqabi women get harassed?”
Other initiatives & organizations such as the national council for women, echoed similar campaigns to address this problem.
All types of sexual Harassment are a crime according to Egyptian law, however tolerance to harassers & social media campaigns such as this, resemble a push back to any progress done on the front of women rights.
So, hashtag creators be mindful of what you say on social media & get ready for the backlash if you choose to launch a misogynist campaign to commemorate Ramadan!
So in light of Ostor Bentak campaign riddle us this, what happens if women actually do cover up, will this stop sexual harassment?