Sexual Violence and Its Resistance in Post-Revolutionary Egypt: At the Intersection between Authoritarianism and Patriarchy

By Heijthuyzen, Martine | Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal, January 2018 | Go to article overview

Sexual Violence and Its Resistance in Post-Revolutionary Egypt: At the Intersection between Authoritarianism and Patriarchy


Heijthuyzen, Martine, Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal


Introduction

Different observers and commentators have perceived women's agency during the Egyptian revolution, as well as after the Eighteen days of the Revolution, as a result of presupposed feminist desires. However, such a paradigm isolates women's agency and resistance from the political context it was constituted by (el Said et al., 2015: 9). This article examines sexual violence as a complex contextual political technique having different claims on the subject, resulting in complex modalities of resistance that aim to oppose not only patriarchal structures but opposing authoritarian structures as well. Therefore, to get a profound understanding of the use of sexual violence and its resistance in post-revolutionary Egypt, this work includes the concept of political intersectionality as defined by Kimberle Crenshaw. Crenshaw distinguishes 'political intersectionality' from 'structural intersectionality', in which the former refers to how inequalities and their intersection are integral in understanding political strategies (Crenshaw, 1991). Although the concept of intersectionality initially is used to discuss inequalities and their intersections specific to social constructs such as gender, race, class and sexuality. This article uses the concept of political intersectionality to examine how inequalities and their intersection, as the result of patriarchal and authoritarian structures in post-revolutionary Egypt, are manifested in the events of sexual violence and its resistance. As the debate regarding sexual violence against women in this context was situated within two (sometimes) conflicting political agendas. That is, the agenda of those opposing authoritarianism and those whom remain silent on the atrocities regarding sexual violence out of fear for the 'reputation of the revolution' (El Nadeem, Nazra and New Woman Foundation, 2013: 47). In addition to international organizations and feminist collectives that aim to resist the patriarchal system by demanding more state security presence on the streets, without acknowledging the violence inherent therein (Grove, 2015: 360).

As mentioned by Crenshaw (1991) this need to split one's political energy between two sometimes composing groups, is an aspect of intersectional disempowerment that is seldom confronted. With the result that the parameters of the revolutionary strategies were not always inclusionary of the experience of Egyptian women. In some cases, such as the demonstrations during International Women's day on 8 March 2011, women protesting were harassed and accused of taking away attention from the main issues of the Revolution (Al Ali, 2012: 29). Whereas certain strategies regarding preventing sexual violence sometimes overlooked the complicity of the regime. For example, UN-recognized feminist campaigns in Egypt that reject class-conscious movements for social change and focused on cultural explanations for sexual violence. The solution suggested by such organizations often included an intensification of policing on the street. Resulting in "securitized and militarized appropriations of internationals gender and security interventions" (Amar, 2013: 204). As well as the Human Rights Watch report on sexual harassment in Egypt which failed to locate the role of the state itself in these attacks, while suggesting an increase of law enforcement to protect the victims (HRW report, 2013). In addition to the annual report of HarassMapp (2010-2012) which did on one hand acknowledge that in some cases sexual violence offences were committed by the Egyptian security forces. Yet, on the other hand criticized the same forces for lack of presence or lack of willingness to intervene (Grove, 2015: 352).

The most troubling consequence of such intersecting discourses is that one analysis often implicitly denies the validity of the other (Crenshaw, 1991: 1252). In the case of Egypt, this led to reproducing and reinforcing patriarchal discourses by revolutionary groups who excluded gender issues. …

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