A new high-tech weapon has been unveiled in the battle against sexual harassment in Egypt, the Guardian reported.
"HarassMap," a private initiative that is set to be launch later this year, allows women to instantly report incidents of sexual harassment by sending a text message to a centralized computer system. Victims will immediately receive a reply offering support and practical advice, and the reports will be used to build up a detailed and publicly available map of harassment hotspots.
The project utilizes an open-source mapping technology more commonly associated with humanitarian relief operations, and the activists behind it hope to transform social attitudes to the harassment of women and shame authorities into taking greater action to combat the problem.
"In the last couple of years there's been a debate in Egypt over whether harassment of women on the streets is a serious issue, or whether it's something women are making up," Rebecca Chiao, one of the volunteers behind the project told the newspaper.
"HarassMap will have an impact on the ground by revealing the extent of this problem. It will also offer victims a practical way of responding, something to fight back with; as someone who has experienced sexual harassment personally on the streets of Cairo, I know that the most frustrating part of it was feeling like there was nothing I could do."
Sexual harassment of women in Egypt is believed to be on the rise: A recent study by the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights in 2008, revealed that 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women have been exposed to some form of sexual harassment, including groping, verbal abuse, stalking and indecent exposure.
Contrary to popular opinion, incidents do not appear to be linked to the woman's style of dress, as the survey said some 75% of victims having been veiled at the time.
Egyptian statute has no clear laws specifically prohibiting harassment, for which blame is often placed on the victim rather than male perpetrators.
"We have to transform the social acceptability of sexual harassment and open up a discussion about solutions," said Chiao. "Egypt is our home. When you have a problem in your home then you fix it because you're proud of it.
"You don't cover it up and hope it goes away. We're not trying to ruin Egypt's reputation, we're just trying to address this problem in a constructive and progressive way."
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