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Violence During Million Women March Frustrates Female Egyptians

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Stories of what happened as Egyptian women protested in Tahrir Square and called for equality and fairness in Egyptian society in honor of International Women's Day are circulating. Female Egyptians hoped to have a million women march. Unfortunately, only a few hundred women came out to demonstrate and the action turned violent as men disrupted what should have been a peaceful day of celebration.

Christian Science Monitor reports men showed up and shouted, "Go wash clothes!" And said, "You are not married; go find a husband," and "This is against Islam!" Men suggested women already have enough rights. They argued now was not the time to argue for rights.

Men decided women had been demonstrating for too long and violently scattered the women provoking the military to fire shots in the air. Sexual harassment, which many female Egyptians said during the uprising had disappeared, happened during the "melee."

Cairo-based reporter and writer Ursula Lindsey reports one "48 year-old accountant" was "horrified by the protesters' demand that women be allowed to run for the presidency." He suggested Egyptians would "reject this completely" and added, "Women have a role, and men have a role. We're used to men ruling. Who rules in my house? My father. And who rules in my family? I do."

Lindsey notes, "There were more men than women present, and most of them expressed either indignation or amusement at the women's demands." Egyptian women who had struggled alongside men during the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak were, for the first time, faced with the stark reality that culture and attitudes toward women remained largely unchanged.

Two tweets capture the frustration and rage women felt in the aftermath of the failed march:

There had already been some signs that patriarchy was still alive and well as the committee convened to amend the country's constitution was all male. And, an amendment up for consideration prohibited a man with a foreign wife from running for president and left no room for the possibility of a woman running for president.

Giving women rights to participate in the political process has historically produced tension. 09CAIRO1148 provides an account of what happened when an amendment supported by the National Democratic Party (NDP) on women's political participation was approved in 2009.

The Muslim Brotherhood and some independents find the measure to be "unconstitutional." It is called a "farce," as several critics thought the amendment was a wrong way to increase women's participation because it seemed like a way for the NDP to increase the number of seats it had in the People's Assembly (PA).

The amendment is linked to "Mubarak's pledge during the 2005 presidential elections to encourage women to play a more active role in politics." It would establish a "quota for women's participation in the PA for a period of 10 years." President of the Democratic Front Party Dr. Osama El-Ghazali considers the amendment to be "long overdue" and notes, "Egypt led the region, with the first women MPs elected to parliament in 1957, but that sadly little had changed in over fifty years."

08CAIRO2262 details Nehad Aboul Komsan, Embassy Cairo's nominee in 2009 for the Secretary's International Women of Courage award. Komsan's efforts as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR) are lauded. It reads:

" courageously pressed for advancement on women's issues in the face of government policy that is often indifferent to women's concerns and sometimes obstructionist. A lawyer by training, she has used her skills to provide legal aid to impoverished women, and legal representation for the plaintiff in the October 21 landmark ruling against a perpetrator of sexual assault (ref B). She has used her political skills to provide training for female candidates who successfully ran in 2005 and 2008 elections that were marred by government interference. Aboul Komsan has deployed her public relations skills in ECWR's campaign to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault, and to publicize the dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM) -- playing an important role in the passage of the June 2008 Child Law that criminalizes the practice.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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