Violence against women, both at home and in public, is quite prevalent in Egypt. From sexual mob attacks — where women are stripped naked and dragged through the streets while being beaten with sticks and whips as punishment — to torture in state custody and discriminatory domestic violence laws, the female population of the country suffers abuse on a disturbing scale.
According to a 2009 survey by USAID, more than 60 percent of married women said they had faced some form of violence during their marriage. In another report published by U.N. Women in 2013, almost 99 percent of the surveyed women said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment.
Despite international criticism, the Egyptian authorities have so far been unable to tackle the problem. Therefore, a local TV host took it upon herself to address the issue affecting scores of women in her country.
Egyptian presenter Manal Agha recently appeared on her TV show on a private satellite channel supporting a black eye and distinct bruises on her face.
After apologizing to her viewers for appearing like this onscreen, Agha indicated she was a victim of domestic abuse and explained how she had hesitated before appearing in front of the camera and thought about cancelling the show, but then decided to air it because she did not want to “bury her head in the sand” anymore.
“Marriage is based on affection and compassion, not humiliation, beatings and a lack of self-restraint," Agha said in a bid to encourage other victims to take a stand for their rights. “Nowadays, domestic violence in Egypt is no longer associated with a given class, intellectual or economic level.”
In 2015, the Amnesty International published a report titled “Circles of Hell: Domestic, Public and State Violence against Women in Egypt,” to highlight the severity of the issue.
“Nearly half of all women surveyed for the Ministry of Health said that they had experienced some form of domestic violence, in the last official figures on the issue,” it read. “Survivors interviewed by Amnesty International described brutal physical and psychological abuse, saying that their spouses had beaten, whipped and burned them and in some cases locked them up inside the house against their will. They also spoke about how the legal system is failing them.”
Given how women and girls continue to suffer at the hands of their male family members, Agha’s stance is definitely necessary.
However, in an unexpected twist, she later revealed her black eye and bruises were in fact makeup, which she had only done in hopes of raising awareness about domestic violence.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Jorge Silva