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Mapping Anti-Sexual Harassment and Changing Social Norms in Egypt

Author(s): Logan Cochrane, Yasmien Zeid, Raed Sharif

In: ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, Vol 18, No 2, pp. 394-420

According to available data, Egypt has higher than average rates of sexual harassment for the Middle East and North Africa region and many other countries in the Global South. This article explores how one organization, HarassMap, has mapped sexual harassment using crowd-sourced technology, engaged in anti-sexual harassment activities and sought to change social norms to promote an environment of zero tolerance. The authors highlight the evolving activism since 2010, and the lessons learned, within an environment influenced by restrictive political, religious and socio-cultural spheres. This article shows how anti-sexual harassment activities can occur in challenging contexts, using crowdsourcing mapping, when traditional methods are illegal or could lead to violence. The authors draw on these experiences to reflect on more effective forms of support that external actors can provide within restrictive environments.

See also Bernardi, Chiara (2018) ‘HarassMap: The Silent Revolution for Women’s Rights in Egypt’ in Maestri Elena, Annemarie Profanter  (eds.) Arab Women and the Media in Changing Landscapes. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 215-227.

The author analyzes the role played by the independent organization HarassMap, run by Egyptian men and women, with the aim to “put an end to social acceptance of sexual harassment” in the country. HarassMap situates itself at the intersection of activism, digital media and semiotics. It is an interactive map that enables sexual harassment to become visible and “exposed” in a country where bystanders turn a blind eye to instances of harassment and even violence.