Poll labelling Egypt worst for women in Arab world is 'misleading': Activists

Analysis, posted 11.15.2013, from Egypt, in:
Poll labelling Egypt worst for women in Arab world is 'misleading': Activists (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian activists expressed dismay at a recent expert survey that ranked Egypt as the worst Arab country to be a woman, describing the label as "misrepresentative" and "inaccurate."

In a report released on Tuesday, a poll of gender experts surveyed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation put Egypt last out of 22 Arab countries, just behind Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The report drew rankings from expert evaluations of different categories, including women's participation in politics, society, economy, and the family, as well as reproductive rights and violence against women.

Sexual harassment, high rates of female genital mutilation, a surge in violence and the growth of Islamism after the 2011 revolution were cited as factors behind Egypt's low score.

Some activists expressed shock that Egypt scored worse than conservative Saudi Arabia, where women's access to public space is limited and women need a male guardian's permission to work, travel abroad, open a bank account or enrol in higher education.

"Yes, I'm subject to harassment and physical violence but that's because I get on the street in the first place...I'm subject to annoyances while driving but that's because I'm allowed to drive," said human rights activist Ghada Shahbender, referring to the controversial Saudi ban on women drivers.

But many activists agreed that Egyptian women face serious problems, including rising sexual violence.

"The status of women rights in Egypt in terrible," said Mariam Kirollos, a feminist advocate. "Sexual violence has for sure increased in numbers and mob assaults," she added.

Other activists were less concerned with the rankings.

"I don't care how they frame it... they would not create something that is not there," Dalia Abdel-Hameed of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said.

"The numbers needed more accuracy but there was nothing that could have lifted Egypt to the top of the list."

The poll was based on surveys of 336 experts, including healthcare and aid workers, women’s rights activists, policy makers, journalists, academics, and lawyers at the regional, national and local levels.

Some activists questioned the methodology behind the rankings.

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By Mariam Rizk

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