Aswat Masriya (Cairo)

6 May 2013

Egypt: Man Dresses As Woman to Experience Egypt's Sexual Harassment

For the purpose of a video report on sexual harassment in Egypt, 24-year-old actor Waleed Hammad dressed as a woman to experience the assaults firsthand.

Hammad, who studied Economics and Theatre at the American University in Cairo, told Aswat Masriya on Monday that he blames neither men nor women for sexual harassment, but society as a whole.

"Honestly, I felt sorry for all Egyptians because the harassment wasn't only from men; it was from women as well," Hammad told AM, adding that receiving assaults from women was even sadder because they were oppressing their own gender.

The 24-year-old actor said that some of the catcalls were mild, while others were obscene, adding that when they first started filming, he feared that someone would blow his cover and "make a scene".

He explained, however, that his fear was minimal as he was surrounded by the television crew which followed him during the experiment.

"When I put on the veil in the experiment, harassment became more vicious and in your face, so it's not a problem of covering up," Hammad said, explaining that his experiment proves wrong the argument that covering up is the solution for sexual harassment.

"It's all about domination, it's not about sex. The more the woman is covered up, the bigger the challenge because it seems as if she's putting more and more layers to be protected. This excites the men who feel like they have to dominate women in order to feel worthy."

He added, "I doubt it's ever really about sex, because sex is available to those who want it and want to find it. It's not a matter of 'I'm not having sex thus I'll take it out on women'. No, it's about domination."

When asked whether he feared that he would be judged for dressing up as a woman in Egypt's conservative society, Hammad said, "I am an actor and I take what scares me as a challenge, so I agreed to do it on the spot."

He added that he did not mind that he was actually judged by some people following the release of the video because "it was for a good cause."

In the ONTV report, Hammad explains that it requires immense effort, psychological and physical, to walk down the street as a woman, with or without the makeup or the headscarf.

"They're funny in their creativity, it seems like they spend a lot of time coming up with these lines. Or maybe they're just naturally talented in coming up with them on the spot. They just choose to divert their talents to perversion."

"At one point, I laughed because I tripped on a street salesman's products and I said 'sorry' in my normal manly voice and he looked at me as if I was the antichrist."

The 30-minute ONTV video report, titled "Sexual Harassment in Egypt", includes different segments, including one on how harassers justify their acts.

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