CAÏRO - Those who hoped the 2011 Egyptian revolution would dramatically improve women's lives are being disappointed. More than a decade later, calls for equal rights and opportunities are ringing louder than ever. Social media are once again an ideal sounding board for emancipatory ideas. And the regime? As ever, it reacts defensively. Whoever does not go along with the official discourse on women's rights is gagged.'
Egypt has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world, with possible incarceration for both caregivers and those seeking care. There are also personal status laws, which firmly curtail women's right to self-determination. A growing group of Egyptians wants to tinker with these strict legal frameworks. Especially online, young Egypt is crying out for change.
A national #MeToo campaign caused quite a stir in the country. Other hashtags then took aim at personal status laws. To the outside world, the Egyptian regime is reacting leniently. It wants to project a progressive and women-friendly image at all costs.
Yet reality seems to be a little different. Journalist and writer Johannes Decat delved into the world of Egyptian women's rights activists. He spoke to fervent twitterers, persecuted journalists, women with abortion stories and an anonymous doctor with a clandestine abortion clinic. It soon becomes clear: the Egyptian regime tolerates only its own form of feminism. Independent activists face bullying measures. Their assets are frozen or they have an exit ban on their leg. Those who keep shouting too loudly risk imprisonment.
Illustration: © Gheleyne Bastiaen
Hashtags in de strijd voor het vrouwenlichaam in Egypt, MO* 146, verschenen op 07/12/2022.