Two-thirds of Egyptian men harass women?

CAIRO Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:15pm EDT

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Nearly two-thirds of Egyptian men admit to having sexually harassed women in the most populous Arab country, and a majority say women themselves are to blame for their maltreatment, a survey showed Thursday.

The forms of harassment reported by Egyptian men, whose country attracts millions of foreign tourists each year, include touching or ogling women, shouting sexually explicit remarks, and exposing their genitals to women. "Sexual harassment has become an overwhelming and very real problem experienced by all women in Egyptian society, often on a daily basis," said the report by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights.

Egyptian women and female visitors frequently complain of persistent sexual harassment on Egyptian streets, despite the socially conservative nature of this traditional Muslim society.

The behavior could have repercussions on Egypt's tourism industry, a major foreign income earner, with 98 percent of foreign women saying they had experienced harassment in the country, the survey said.

The survey of more than 2,000 Egyptian men and women and 109 foreign women said the vast majority of Egyptians believed that sexual harassment in Egypt was on the rise, citing a worsening economic situation and a lack of awareness or religious values.

It said 62 percent of Egyptian men reported perpetrating harassment, while 83 percent of Egyptian women reported having been sexually harassed. Nearly half of women said the abuse occurred daily.

Only 2.4 percent of Egyptian women reported it to the police, with most saying they did not believe anyone would help. Some feared reporting harassment would hurt their reputations.

"The vast majority of women did nothing when confronted with sexual harassment," the survey said, adding that most Egyptian women believed the victim should "remain silent."

Some 53 percent of men blamed women for bringing on sexual harassment, saying they enjoyed it or were dressed in a way deemed indecent. Some women agreed.

"Out of Egyptian women and men interviewed, most believe that women who wear tight clothes deserve to be harassed," the survey said. It added most agreed women should be home by 8 p.m.

The survey said most of the Egyptian women who told of being harassed said they were dressed conservatively, with the majority wearing the Islamic headscarf. The harassment took place on the streets or on public transport, as well as in tourist destinations and foreign educational institutions.

(Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Caroline Drees)

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