Gender Justice and the Politics of Sexual Harassment in Cairo

  • Hala Nasr
Part of the Gender, Development and Social Change book series (GDSC)


Sexual harassment in Cairo, and in Egypt more widely, is a popular target of government and non-governmental organisation-led prevention efforts. However, I problematise these efforts, arguing that sexual harassment is often reduced to a criminal problem of disorder and disobedience, where solutions focus on individual responsibility without consideration for wider structural forces that influence its prevalence. Through analysing dominant discourses and voices within the anti-sexual harassment movement, the themes of securitisation, moralisation, and privatisation are used to highlight the inadvertent complicity of feminist praxis in sexist authoritarian neoliberal governmentalities under the auspices of ‘gender justice’. Ultimately, I argue that intervention efforts cannot be taken for granted as hallmarks of progress in development or modes of empowerment for women. Rather, they embody a particular set of contradictions and contestations that constitute a ‘gender ritual’ rather than gender justice.


Sexual Harassment Gender Justice Gendered Rituals Feminist Practice Securitization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Agarwal, Bina. 1994. A field of one’s own: gender and land rights in South Asia (Cambridge, England and New York: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  2. Ahram Online. 2012, October 17. Interior ministry to install cameras in Cairo to detect sexual harassment. Retrieved from:
  3. Al-Ali, Nadje. 2014. Open space reflections on (counter)revolutionary processes in Egypt. Feminist Review 106: 122–128.Google Scholar
  4. Al Jazeera. 2011, June 2. Egyptian army denies ‘virginity tests’ [Video file- Arabic]. Retrieved from:
  5. Al Jazeera Arabic. 2014, May 5. Sisi calling on women to stand by his side [Video file - Arabic]. Retrieved from:
  6. Al-Monitor. 2016, May 16. Egypt’s next national security threat: all the single ladies? Retrieved from:
  7. Ali, Kamran Asdar. 2002. Faulty Deployments: Persuading Women and Constructing Choice in Egypt. Comparative Studies in Society and History 44(2): 370–394.Google Scholar
  8. Amar, Paul. 2011. Turning the Gendered Politics of the Security State Inside Out? Charging the Police with Sexual Harassment in Egypt. International Feminist Journal of Politics 13(3): 299–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Amar, Paul. 2013. The security archipelago: Human-security states, sexuality politics, and the end of neoliberalism (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Amnesty International. 2016. Egypt: Authorities order closure of renowned torture rehabilitation centre. Retrieved from:
  11. Baden, Sally and Anne Marie Goetz. 1998. Who needs [sex] when you can have [gender]: Conflicting discourses on Gender at Beijing. In C. Jackson and R. Pearson (eds.) Feminist Visions of Development: Gender Analysis and Policy (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
  12. Batliwala, Srilatha. 2007. Taking the power out of empowerment – an experiential account. Development in Practice 17(4-5): 557–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Batliwala, Srilatha. 1994. The meaning of women’s empowerment: new concepts from action. In G. Sen, A. Germain and L. C. Chen (eds.) Population Policies Reconsidered: Health, Empowerment and Right (New York, Boston: Harvard University Press): 127–138.Google Scholar
  14. Cairo Post. 2015, September 25. 310 cameras in place to fight harassment in Eid al-Adha. Retrieved from:
  15. Connell, R.W. 1995. Masculinities (Cambridge: Polity Press).Google Scholar
  16. Cornwall, Andrea., Elizabeth Harrison and Ann Whitehead. 2007. Gender Myths and Feminist Fables: the Struggle for Interpretive Power in Gender and Development. Development and Change 38(1): 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Datta, Kavita. 2004. A coming of age? Reconceptualising Gender and Development in Urban Botswana. Journal of Southern African Studies 30(2): 251–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Durazo, Ana Clarissa Rojaz. 2007. “We were never meant to survive: Fighting Violence Against Women and the Fourth World War.” In INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (ed.) The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (Cambridge MA: South End Press): 113–128.Google Scholar
  19. Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR). 2014. 2014: The year of un-fulfilled promises for Egyptian women – Women’s Status Report 2014 Summary. Retrieved from:
  20. Egypt First. 2014, June 13. Video of Sisi: God willing we will prosecute those who even look at the woman citizen, let alone sexually harasses him, with the law [Video file- Arabic]. Retrieved from:
  21. EgyTalkShows. 2014, May 6. Sisi: ‘I love the Egyptian woman’ [Video file - Arabic]. Retrieved from:
  22. El-Shakry, Omina. 2005. Barren Land and Fecund Bodies: The Emergence of Population Discourse in Interwar Egypt. International Journal of Middle East Studies 37(3): 351–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Elyachar, Julia. 2005. Markets of Dispossession: NGOs, Economic Development, and the State in Cairo (Durham, London: Duke University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Foucault, Michel. 1979. On Governmentality. Ideology and Consciousness 6(1): 5–22.Google Scholar
  25. Hafez, Sherine. 2012. No longer a bargain: Women, masculinity, and the Egyptian uprising. American Ethnologist 39(1): 37–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hafez, Sherine. 2014. Bodies That Protest: The Girl in the Blue Bra, Sexuality, and State Violence in Revolutionary Egypt. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 40(1): 20–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. HarassMap. 2015. Sexual harassment myths. Retrieved from:
  28. Harvey, David. 2005. A brief history of neoliberalism (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  29. Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2015. World Report 2015: Egypt. Retrieved from:
  30. Ilcan, Suzan. 2009. Privatizing Responsibility: Public Sector Reform under Neoliberal Government, Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie, 46(3): 207–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ilcan, Suzan and Lynne Phillips. 2004. Capacity-Building: The Neoliberal Governance of Development. Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d’études du développement 25(3): 393–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. International Women’s Network. 2016. About. Retrieved from:
  33. Ismail, Salwa. 2011. Authoritarian Government, Neoliberalism and Everyday Civilities in Egypt. Third World Quarterly 32(5): 845–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jad, Islah. 2004. The NGO-isation of Arab Women’s Movements. IDS Bulletin 35(4): 34–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kabeer, Naila. 1994. Reversed realities: Gender hierarchies in development thought (London, New York: Verso).Google Scholar
  36. Kandiyoti, Deniz. 1988. Bargaining with Patriarchy. Gender and Society 2(3): 274–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kapoor, Ilan. 2004. Hyper-Self-Reflexive Development? Spivak on Representing the Third World ‘Other.’ Third World Quarterly 25(4): 627–647.Google Scholar
  38. Macleod, Catriona and Kevin Durrheim. 2002. Foucauldian Feminism: The Implications of Governmentality. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 32(1): 41–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mada, Masr. 2014, June 10. National women’s council says assault is used to discredit women. Retrieved from:'s-council-says-assault-used-discredit-women
  40. Madhok, Sumi and Rai, Shirin M. 2012. Agency, Injury, and Transgressive Politics in Neoliberal Times. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 37(3): 645–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 2003. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham, London: Duke University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Molyneux, Maxine. 1985. Mobilization without Emancipation? Women’s Interests, the State, and Revolution in Nicaragua. Feminist Studies 11(2): 227–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Moser, Caroline. 1989. Gender planning in the third world: Meeting practical and strategic gender needs. World Development 17(11): 1799–1825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Moser, Caroline. 1993. Gender planning and development: Theory, practice and training (London, New York: Routledge).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. National Council of Women. 2015, January 26. Speech by Ambassador Mervat Tallawi, President of the National Council for Women before the conference: “She and Terrorism.” Retrieved from:
  46. ONtv. 2014a, May 6. Conference for presidential candidate with representatives of the Egyptian woman [Video file - Arabic]. Retrieved from:
  47. ONtv. 2014b, June 11. The President Visits Tahrir Square Sexual Assault Victim to Check on her Health [Video file - Arabic]. Retrieved from:
  48. Rai, Shirin M. 2002. Gender and the political economy of development: From nationalism to globalization (Cambridge: Polity Press).Google Scholar
  49. Rao, Nitya and Sweetman, Caroline. 2014. Introduction to Gender and Education. Gender and Development 22(1): 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rathgeber, Eva M. 2005. Gender and Development as a Fugitive Concept. Gender and Development 26(1): 578–591.Google Scholar
  51. Rose, Nikolas and Peter Miller. 2010. Political power beyond the state: problematics of government. British Journal of Sociology 61: 271–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rose, Nikolas. 1999. Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rowlands, Jo. 1995. Empowerment Examined. Development in Practice 5(2): 101–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sholkamy, Hania. 2012. The Jaded Gender and Development Paradigm of Egypt. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 94–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1985. Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism. Critical Inquiry 12: 243–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. State Information Services (SIS). 2016. Sisi hails armed forces efforts to confront terrorism. Retrieved from:
  57. State Information Services (SIS). 2015. ‘Violence against women violates cultural and religious values’: National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women Strategy (2015–2020). Retrieved from:
  58. State Information Services (SIS). 2014. New Strategy for Combatting Terrorism. Retrieved from:
  59. Ten TV Network. 2015, November 4. The house is your house: ‘The Egyptian woman is the most who contributes to the state and I respect her the Egyptian woman’ [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hala Nasr
    • 1
  1. 1.Sexual Assault Response TeamNZ Defence ForceAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations