It is virtually impossible to be a woman for a day in Cairo, Egypt without some form of sexual harassment. Whether it be cat-calling or actual pinches and grabs, 99 percent of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, according to a report by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality. 99 percent. 96 percent of women stated that they most commonly experienced some form of touching as sexual harassment. These numbers are completely mind-blowing, but in the experience of the Egyptian woman, completely expected.
After the multiple rapes and violent sexual assaults reported in Tahrir, the state of sexual harassment in Egypt became the focus of international attention. But the countless articles written about the atrocities in Tahrir didn't make a difference in the streets of Cairo— Sexual harassment numbers have steadily risen since 2008, which some attribute to the growing number of unemployed young men who claim to be sexually frustrated and oh-so-unable to control themselves in front of tantalizing women, no matter how covered they are.
But you haven't seen true frustration until you've experienced what it's like to be a woman in Cairo. Fed up with constant barrage of harassment, more and more women are turning to self-defense classes so they can be ready to kick some pervert's ass next time he tries to pinch hers.
Tahrir Body Guard is one of the handful of groups that have popped up since the widely publicized attacks in Tahrir Square. Every week, the group offers free classes for women at the Samia Allouba Gym in Cairo, where women learn simple but forceful techniques like windpipe striking to fight off attackers.
In Jordan, a group called SheFighter teaches women a variety of self-defense techniques and martial arts as well. The group was founded by Lina Khalifeh, who felt the need for a women-lead self-defense organization after she discovered her friend was beaten daily by her father and brother. SheFighter will host a self-defense seminar in Cairo this summer.
Martial arts is appealing especially to Muslim Arab women because the loose garb allows for them to remain modest according to the guidelines of Islam while learning how to beat the shit out of a cat-caller. The World Karate Federation approved hijabs in international competition, making the sport more accessible at a professional level to Muslim women.
For those women and girls who have embraced martial arts, the fear of harassment has subsided to confidence when they walk the streets. "I used to be afraid of everything, but not anymore," said 15-year-old Sharouk Mohamad, who has been taking Judo for seven years. "Now, I know if I get caught in a dangerous situation, I'll be able to react quickly and get out of it."
Image via Associated Press