BY Nana Abuelsoud
Image Credit: UN Women/Mohamed Ezz Aldin
On November 25, a couple of buildings in Cairo and Alexandria were orange-lit to mark the launch of the 16 Days of activism campaign by the National Council for Women (NCW), UN Women, and other government bodies. I would usually scroll through NCW updates with a cynical smile, however, this time I received them with disgust.
It has been a horrible year on many fronts in Egypt, primarily for the sexual violence/rape/assault testimonies that have been clouding over our screens for the past few months. And it goes without saying: the pandemic!
In September, a young woman named Nazly got arrested pending investigation and is still detained to this moment, after picking up NCW’s call to women to come forward and seek legal protection if they were subject to threats of violence. This invitation came after NCW celebrated, last August, legislative amendments to strengthen data protection for victims reporting to the police. A motion that has been viewed with skepticism especially when days later, a number of victims and witnesses had their personal data leaked to the press, and repackaged with slut-shaming debauchery accusations, and homophobia. Back to Nazly, whose name is associated with a gangrape incident that dates back to 2014 as a witness and a former partner of one of the rapists. Despite receiving countless threats from her ex partner, she courageously didn’t hush.
The NCW has not responded to the smear campaigns targeting witnesses, and has not publicly condemned their wrongful detention, including Nazly’s. It is worth noting that their call encouraging witnesses to collaborate comes after a bilingual online campaign they ran on cyber sexual exploitation in August 2020.
What message does the NCW send women and girls by being passive to wrongful detentions and slut shaming of women breaking all lines to protect themselves and others?
Anyways, what good is lighting concrete with orange?
Lighting concrete with orange is useless and not even symbolically effective when people drive by and have no associations provoked.
Lighting concrete with orange is useless if women and girls fear being detained for being victims/witnesses.
Lighting concrete with orange is useless if huge budgets are exhausted to populate logframes.
Lighting concrete with orange is useless when main stakeholders, women and girls, are not steering the wheel.
Lighting concrete is useless when all public platforms are taken over by state feminists.
Lighting concrete with orange is useless. Stop it!