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Women struggle for safety, independence in Egypt and USA

Reprinted with permission of the News-Register. Find more News-Register stories about Linfield College here.

 

Oct 18, 2013 | Commentary

By BREANNA RIBEIRO and MEGAN SCHWAB

 

On the Fourth of July, fireworks exploded over the heads of children who excitedly clutched U.S. flags, celebrating the 237th anniversary of America’s independence.

A similar scene existed halfway around the world, where Egyptians shot fireworks into the air, proudly waving flags over the streets of Cairo, marking the downfall of President Mohamed Morsi.

Unfortunately, the noise of the festivities in Cairo overpowered the voices of more than 100 women sexually assaulted during the course of the protests.

These include only documented cases, leaving the majority of sexual assault victims — those unreported — completely silenced.

Since the Arab Spring, the violation of women’s bodies has been accompanied by the deterioration of their rights.

Percentages of women in government shrank from 12 to 2, and women lacked representation during the drafting of the new constitution. Egyptian women prioritized the economic and political needs of their nation over the fight for their rights.

Once again, the nation is free of dictatorial rule, but what is freedom when half the population is systematically marginalized?

President Obama condemned the sexual harassment, claiming that “all forms of violence are unacceptable.” America continually criticizes the repression and violence against women around the world. It prides itself on its progressive policies, humanitarian values and ability to promote human rights abroad.

We ask: Isn’t this hypocrisy at its finest?

We have read claims that, in the United States, a woman is battered every 9 seconds and a rape is reported every 6.2 minutes. The first three months of 2013 saw 694 policies proposed to regulate women’s bodies. Women remain underpaid compared to men, making 80 cents to a man’s dollar.

The United States ranks 77th in terms of female representation in national parliaments, behind countries such as China, Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba.

Moreover, the international treaty, the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, has yet to be signed by the United States despite the fact that 187 out of 194 countries have signed it.

In addition, leaders in both countries have led the charge to place the blame on women.

In Egypt, a member of parliament stated that women protesters are “100 percent of the time” responsible for their rape. U.S. Sen. Todd Akin mirrored these sentiments, posing the idea of “legitimate rape,” while U.S. Senate nominee Richard Mourdock argued that rape is “God’s intention.”

In both countries, the odds undeniably are stacked against women.

The idea of gender equality is a misconception in the United States, undermining women’s rights in America while lowering the bar for feminist movements abroad. The use of rape against women in Egypt may be appalling, but this country also tolerates assaults on women’s rights.

As we give thanks for our nation’s independence, we must remember that more than half the populace remains imprisoned by the bonds of patriarchy.

The women of Egypt and America, though differing in culture and separated by distance, share the same struggle to gain respect and equal treatment from their male counterparts and from themselves.

Consider this your official invitation to Feminism.

 

Breanna Ribeiro and Megan Schwab are students at Linfield College. In summer 2013, they researched domestic and public violence against women in the Middle East and North Africa with professors Dawn Nowacki and Patrick Cottrell. July’s coup in Egypt inspired them to write.