By Ashna Butani
Cairo is the most dangerous megacity in the word, while London has emerged as the most woman-friendly. The Thomson Reuters Foundation survey was conducted in 19 megacities, where scholars and experts on women’s issues were asked about sexual violence in their cities. The cities have been ranked from the worst to best in terms of women’s security.
Life as a woman in Cairo
The first international poll on women’s safety in megacities, each with a population of more than 10 million, reveals the sad state of women in Cairo. Campaigners say that everything in Cairo is difficult if you are a woman. Age old discriminatory practices hinder women development in Egypt. A 2013 survey revealed that Egypt was the worst Arab country to live in as a woman. It’s 2017, and the situation remains the same.
Shahira Amin, an Egyptian journalist, says that everything is difficult. A simple walk down the street could lead to violence, harassment and abuse. A survey conducted in Cairo, Giza and Qalubia in 2008 revealed that 48% of all Egyptian women face sexual harassment on a daily basis. Over 40 women activists and protesters have been sexually harassed or attacked midst the Tahrir Square bustle.
A British journalist was ‘forced to leave Cairo’ after she was grabbed sexually by a large group of men. Numerous residents, too, have been complaining about similar acts for the past 20 years. Preceding the 2011 revolution, women activists faced a backlash in Egypt. The belief that the Arab Spring would change the situation was confounded. According to a research by Mariz Tadros, security breakdown since the Arab uprising led to a dramatic rise in incidents of sexual harassment, due to the sense among perpetrators that in the absence of law and order, they could get away with anything. Ever since women’s security has not been on anybody’s agenda.
At the opposite ends of the spectrum
London was ranked the most woman-friendly city, on the grounds that women are protected from dangerous cultural practices such as genital mutilation and female infanticide. Sexual violence is a rarity, while economic and health options for women are vast. Following London are Tokyo and Paris. While Paris did well overall, it fared badly when protection from sexual violence was in question. Parisian women said that they are often attacked and verbally harassed on the streets.
While the sexual violence in New York is quite high, its cultural practices and access to healthcare placed it in the middle of the list. Economic opportunities for women are in abundance in Shanghai, Paris and London.
Where does New Delhi stand?
Women in Delhi and Sao Paulo face the greatest threat of sexual violence. Four rapes are reported every hour in India, which places Delhi at a rank of 4. Economic opportunities and healthcare for women in Delhi are also in question. Since time immemorial, Indian culture has seen practices like genital mutilation, child marriage and female infanticide. The high rates of these crimes are reflected in Delhi’s position on the annual poll.
The study serves as a wake-up call for the cities that need to work towards women’s employment, healthcare and safety. If Cairo, Lima, Kinshasa and Delhi draw inspiration from the cities at the bottom of the list, there may be some scope for improvement.
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