Egypt’s #me too Movement and the Politicization of Women’s Rights amid Authoritarian Politics

Hind Zaki (University of Connecticut)

Egypt is currently witnessing a moment of reckoning with sexual violence with women from different wakes of life coming forward to share their experiences with gender-based violence in the workplace, at home, and in the street. Facebook pages like Girls’ revolution, Instagram accounts like @Assault Police and @Rapists, and online platforms and blogs like “Al Modawana: Daftr Hekayat” that publishes women’s stories of sexual violence are currently proliferating. While the activists behind many of those online accounts remain anonymous, their online activism is shifting the boundaries of many debates on consent, law as a tool for combatting based violence, and the role of. This paper argues that the latest wave of anti-sexual violence in Egypt pushes forward anti-hegemonic discursive frames that challenge the limited mainstream legal/policy understandings of women’s rights in Egypt in general, and the rights of survivors of gender-based violence, in particular. By pointing to the limited definitions of sexual harassment, rape, and sexual consent in the Egyptian legal tradition and practice, and by criticizing the role of the national council for Women (NCW), the state’s national machinery for women’s rights, this new form of online mobilization have deeply unsettled the traditional framing of women’s rights as social apolitical issues, and have exposed the extent through which the politics of controlling women’s bodies and using state laws, policies, and the women’s machinery to do so, have become deeply embroiled in the politics of social and political repression in contemporary Egypt.