While all eyes are focused on the presidential race, on the streets of Egypt, inch by inch, bit by bit, women’s rights are shrinking. Women, Muslim and Christian, who do not cover their hair or who wear mid-sleeved clothing are met with insults, spitting and in some cases physical abuse. In the urban squatter settlement of Mouasset el Zakat, in Al Marg, Greater Cairo, women told me that they hated walking in the streets now.
Thanks to the lax security situation, they have restricted their mobility to all but the most essential of errands. Whereas a couple of years ago they could just inform their husbands where they were going (visiting parents, friends or going to the hairdresser for example), now they have to get their husbands or older sons to accompany them if they go out after sunset.
And the Islamists have made it worse. A Coptic Christian woman said to me “we and our Muslim friends who do not cover our hair get yelled at by men passing by telling us ‘just you wait, those who will cover you up and make you stay at home are coming, and then there will no more of this lewdness'”. It was, she said, as if they were gloating over the fact that we were being pushed off the streets.