Newly-Independent Egyptian Women Face Stigma

Some young Egyptian women have started choosing to separate from their families and live alone in an effort to become more independent, despite the strong male and family-oriented nature of Egyptian society.

I have to achieve my goals regardless of what people are saying. I chose to live separately from my brother, who also lives in Cairo, to find more time for writing and reading,” said Yara, a young Egyptian journalist, explaining why she chose to live on her own.

One challenge these Egyptian women have to face when choosing to live alone is sexual harassment by men.

Without a male companion, usually either a woman’s father or brother, a young Egyptian woman is subject to sexual harassment by men on the street.  Many times men will even follow them when they are walking back to their apartments.

Another challenge facing these trailblazing women, and probably the most damaging, is the stigma placed on them that makes it more difficult to get married—something that is still very much a goal for most of these women.

“Marian,” a 30 year old from Cairo, expressed an experience with this kind of stigma to an inquiring reporter,

My step mum, who’s been like a mother to me since I was 7, kept in touch throughout the time only to tell me that I’m a whore and that no one will ever marry me, that I was hurting my father by doing what I’m doing,” she said.

Because these young women are living alone, without any sort of surveillance by family members or otherwise, assumptions are made that they are sexually active, something that is not acceptable for young women before they are married, and something that makes them unmarriageable in the eyes of Egyptian men.

Since marriage is expected of all Egyptian women, their status in society is nebulous.  There is currently no place for them within the structure of their society.  This likely means they will either be forced to conform, and go back to living with their families, or, Egyptian society will have to change to accommodate single women living on their own.

While these women do face tremendous challenges and their futures remain uncertain, they are still steadfast in their decision to live alone and begin the struggle to forge their own independent lives.    

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