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‘Mother of the Martyr’ Egyptian sculpture highlights sexual harassment

September 5, 2016 at 2:33 pm

Orders have been given to change an 8.5 metre concrete sculpture in Egypt after suggestions that it conveys an image of the sexual harassment of women.

The sculpture, which cost $28,400, has not yet been unveiled officially. It depicts a woman with her arms outstretched and a soldier embracing her from behind. “Mother of the Martyr” is in the public square of Sohag in central Egypt, not far from a girl’s school.

According to Associated Press, the Governor of Sohag, Ayman Abdel-Monaim, has ordered changes to the sculpture after complaints that it symbolises unwanted advances on women.

The issue of sexual harassment in Egypt is an ongoing problem. It is eight years since Noha Elostaz became the first woman in the country to win a court case after revealing that she had been a victim of sexual harassment. In 2008, Sherif Gabreel groped Elostaz from his car then dragged her alongside it. Gabreel was sentenced to three years in prison. A 2013 UN study reported that a staggering 99.3 per cent of Egyptian women have been subject to at least one form of sexual harassment.

The issue was brought to international attention during the 2011 revolution when the military – spearheaded by the then director of military intelligence, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi – conducted virginity tests on female protesters and declared them not to be virgins. Ever since then, Egyptian women attending protests, and those who have been detained, have been beaten, sexually assaulted and tortured by Egyptian security forces, who are rarely brought to justice.

The sculptor responsible for “Mother of the Martyr”, Wagih Yani, has responded to the complaints and agreed to remove the soldier, place an olive branch in one of the woman’s hands and have white doves above her head. Yani and the governor of Sohag may have responded to the complaints on this occasion, but the struggle against sexual harassment in Egypt is far from over.