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Researchers Confront Violence Against Women in Egypt and Morocco

A study of violence against women in Egypt and Morocco looks at steps each country has taken to confront the problem so far and tries to identify the best policies from each.

The study, titled “Gender-Based Violence in Egypt and Morocco: Politics and Policy-Making”, was published by EuroMeSCo, a network of 117 institutes from 30 European and southern Mediterranean countries.

The study used official statistics on violence against women in Egypt and Morocco during the past decade. Among its recommendations, it calls for an increase in the number of shelters for abused women and for training to help police and civil organisations recognize all forms of violence against women.

In an interview with Al-Fanar Media, Dina Rashed, an assistant dean at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the study, said an in-depth study of Egyptian and Moroccan practices allowed researchers to evaluate the policies that have already been adopted.

By learning from these lessons, she said, governments could direct resources to improving conditions for women and reducing societal tensions.

Research and societal issues have an “organic relationship” because social-science researchers try to understand society’s problems and their causes, Rashed said.

Identifying Best Practices

The idea for the study, which took ten months’ work, came at a Moroccan research conference where Rashed and the study’s co-author, Rabha Seif Allam, were discussing an incident of sexual harassment in Egypt.

Research and societal issues have an “organic relationship” because social-science researchers try to understand society’s problems and their causes.

Dina Rashed
An assistant dean at the University of Chicago

Allam, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, in Cairo, told Al-Fanar Media that the study was based on examining Moroccan policies to protect women, identifying areas of agreement and disagreement with Egyptian policies on the same issue, and trying to adopt the best from each.

For example, the study recommended that Egypt should adopt Morocco’s model of cooperation between support cells and women’s organisations, with some modifications, and increase the number of shelters for abused women.

The two researchers interviewed 17 people who work to combat violence against women in the two countries. The interviewees included authority officials, university professors who specialise in the issue, jurists, and defenders of women’s rights in parliaments or nongovernmental organisations, as well as “influencers” who stimulate debate on social media.

Both Egypt and Morocco have conducted national surveys asking women about the violence they have experienced, both from strangers in the public sphere and within their families. The studies noted the economic and social costs of gender-based violence and have led to the adoption of a number of laws and programmes that provided greater protection for women and girls.

From Research to Legal Action

Such research has been a “real locomotive” for promoting interest in the issue of violence against women, Allam said. The situation in both countries is “certainly better, though still far from providing optimal protection for women,” she added.

Research has been a “real locomotive” for raising awareness of violence against women and the need for better protections.

Rabha Saif Allam
A researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, in Cairo

Even so, she described the steps taken by the Egyptian and Moroccan governments to prevent violence and to ensure women can access the justice system as “very serious.”

Hanane Darhour, an associate professor of English and gender studies at Ibn Zohr University, in Morocco, told Al-Fanar Media that violence against women was a global phenomenon, not linked to any particular country. But modernisation and development in Arab societies “proceed at a slow pace compared to other countries.”

She said violence against women in Morocco was a complex problem involving “society’s view of the role of women and the prohibitions imposed on them.”

Darhour believes that Morocco has “taken advanced steps to control this phenomenon through laws supporting the rights of women who are subjected to violence.”

She proposes that research centres play a major role in policies towards combating violence against women in Egypt and Morocco by combining research specialisations to monitor the issue from multiple aspects.

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Rabha Saif Allam said the existence of laws “is not sufficient in itself” because some women may not be aware of their legal protections. She also called for greater coordination between official and civil organisations to make as many women as possible aware of supportive government policies.

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By: Amr EL-Tohamy

Amr is an Egyptian journalist who writes for Al-Masry Al-Youm.
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