NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – After complaints of sexual harassment during previous mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a women’s rights group is urging women to prepare to defend themselves at demonstrations expected to take place on the anniversary of Egypt’s first democratic presidential election on June 30, a local newspaper reported.
The group I Saw Harassment is encouraging women who plan to protest against President Mohammed Morsi to arm themselves with hefty industrial needles, such as those used to stitch mattresses and upholstery, to fend off attackers, according to Egypt’s Daily News.
“This is not a call for violence – it is none other than a means of self-defence,” the group told the paper.
There were reports of at least 19 women being physically or verbally assaulted or raped by men during the protests in Tahrir Square on 25 January 2013.
In the run-up to the expected June 30 demonstrations, I Saw Harassment said it had asked the Ministry of the Interior to become more active in protecting women and prosecuting crimes of sexual violence through its new violence-against-women department.
But the women’s rights group also said it has prepared its own measures to protect women on the day, including setting up a telephone hotline and a first aid station with medical equipment and personnel to treat victims as well as organising a rescue team to intervene when incidents are reported.