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Cairo's women's rights issues miss mark

July 7, 2009 at 5:02 PM   |   Comments

CAIRO, July 7 (UPI) -- Cairo has moved to counter rising incidents of sexual harassment, but critics worry the blame-the-victim approach may only exacerbate the problem.

Salem Abdel Galil, deputy minister of religious affairs, in a 36-page publication offers a litany of causes for pervasive sexual harassment, from media images and the veil, to drug use and immodest dress.

Galil in a message to clerics calls for stricter guidelines, abstinence and a variety of other provisions, saying sexual harassment is tantamount to a lack of religious discipline.

But his notion that women are in part to blame for the issue is cause for controversy, notes Emirati newspaper The National.

Galil, the newspaper notes, makes the analogy that preventing harassment is similar to measures taken to prevent theft.

"If you're working in an office where there is known to be a thief, you don't leave money on your desk. You take care," he says. "Women should take care, too."

While the booklet is the first attempt by Egyptian religious authorities to tackle growing societal issues, critics say its remedies do little to address the underlying issues.

"(Galil) presents a very distorted image of women," says Nawla Darwiche, a founder of the New Women Foundation in Cairo. "Women are presented as evil. I am afraid that this book, used by 50,000 imams, could become a very destructive weapon against women."

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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