Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, is the world's most dangerous megacity for women, according to a poll conducted by Thomson Reuters Foundation. The survey was conducted in 19 megacities where experts on women's issues were asked about how well women were protected from sexual violence.
According to the poll, the world's friendliest megacities towards women are London, followed by Tokyo and Paris. The poll of 380 people was conducted online and by phone between June 1 and July 28 with 20 experts questioned in each of the 19 cities with a response rate of 93 percent. The results were based on a minimum of 15 experts in each city. From a UN list of 19 cities, the Egyptian capital ranked the worst megacity for women regarding harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, while England ranked the best.
London Mayor acknowledged the positive influence that women have in London, saying women were now leading in every level of society in London, including public service, the arts, business and politics.
In Egypt, blame has been put on centuries-old traditions that relegate women to second-class citizens status, and there has been an outcry that any progressive steps taken to alleviate this deplorable condition are extremely difficult. Shahira Amin, a high profile Egyptian journalist, said everything about the city was difficult for women, and even something as simple as walking down the street could expose a woman to harassment and abuse of all kinds.
“We’re still operating under a conservative country and it’s hard to take any radical progressive steps in the area of women and women’s laws,” said Omaima Abou-Bakr, co-founder of the Cairo-based campaign group Women and Memory Forum, Reuters reported.
Attitudes about sexual harassment in Egypt are at the core of the problem. As in many places, though to a more extreme degree, women in Egypt are blamed for inviting sexual harassment for activities as benign as laughing in public. Those beliefs are inculcated in Egyptians from a young age, and are held by girls as well as boys.
There are few statistics on harassment in Egypt. A study conducted by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights in 2008 found that 83 percent of women said they’d been sexually harassed, many of them daily, and 62 percent of men admitted to harassing women; advocates believe the percentage of women harassed is significantly higher.
The other three areas considered in the study were cultural practices, access to healthcare and economic opportunities. Cairo was deemed the worst city for women in terms of cultural practices, which specifically considered female genital mutilation, underage and forced marriages and female infanticide.
It was the second worst city in terms of economic opportunities for women, which looked at female access to education, ownership of land or other forms of property, and financial services. The only city that scored more poorly was Kinshasa.
And Cairo took the third-worst slot when it came to women’s access to healthcare, including maternal mortality and control over their reproductive health.