When I heard that Egyptian actress Rania Youssef was criminally charged for wearing a dress with a see-through skirt at the Cairo International Film Festival, I thought it was an absurd joke. But sadly, she was really one step closer to serving five years in jail for “public obscenity and incitement of debauchery” if she was found guilty.
According to The New York Times, three lawyers who are known for engaging in moral vigilantism filed the case against Rania. A trial had been scheduled for January. Soon after the news came out, the actress issued an apology on live TV, saying that she didn’t mean to anger people with her dress. “I might have miscalculated because I wore that dress for the first time and I never expected that it would cause so much anger,” Rania said. “The opinions of designers and fashion specialists often influence the choice of clothing, and they might have taken into account the fact that it was an international event.”
Soon after, the lawyers withdrew the case and “waive legal measures” because they believe Rania’s claim that wearing the dress was not intentional. Still, the public’s response to the charges they filed have already caused a firestorm on social media. Netizens, including Egyptians, weren’t happy with the lawyers’ backward thinking.
Normal person: sees rania youssef's dress and moves on
Egyptian person: YaLaHwYy El SoUrA dI lAzEm TeB2a Me7WaR 7aYaTy
— Maryam? (@MaryamBazar3a) December 1, 2018
If you don’t like the dress that’s fine, don’t wear it, but don’t fucking dare make fun of someone’s appearance, or body shame someone. Women are suppose to be supporting each other not belittling one another.
— I prefer dogs (@zeinaelnabolsy) December 1, 2018
The dress seems a bit gouche, however Rania Youssef is indeed attractive.
Feminine beauty should not be feared, it should be revered.
— nemomen (@nemomen5) December 1, 2018
To men who are offended at Rania Youssef’s attire—why are you staring???
•Quran commands men to NEVER gawk at women
•Worry about yourself & YOUR obligations & stop obsessing over women#Hypocrites https://t.co/ZtRxZlRXQl
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@MuslimIQ) December 3, 2018
On the other hand, conservative netizens have supported the sentencing and also body-shamed Rania.
Women who dress like prostitutes have no place in Islamic countries, if they want to show their bodies they can leave to countries where people are happily acting like animals
Muslims have manners and modesty, they will not accept animal standards of freedom
Everyone’s occupied with Rania Youssef and you guys kinda slept on that bitch right here. When did she get so big tho???? pic.twitter.com/hUlRIsLFTI
— Riِِnَّalْ. (@RinalAlaa) November 30, 2018
Meanwhile, some also brought up how the Egyptian government stays mum about sexual harassment case. There’s truth in their claims considering that Cairo was tagged as “the world’s third most dangerous megacity for women” because they are subjected to harassment on a daily basis.
Rapists, pedophiles, misogynists, harassers: exist
Rania Youssef: wears a revealing dress
— هنا (@mixedcleopatra) December 1, 2018
“Attitudes about sexual harassment in Egypt are at the core of the problem. As in many places, though to a more extreme degree, women in Egypt are blamed for inviting sexual harassment for activities as benign as laughing in public. Those beliefs are inculcated in Egyptians from a young age, and are held by girls as well as boys,” France24 reported.
Not only that, Egyptian activist Amal Fathy was given a two-year sentence after posting a video describing her experience of sexual harassment at a bank. Authorities accused her of “spreading false news.”
So we have cases of sexual harassment that are either being ignored or being silenced through jail time. Yet there are lawyers who are so pressed about a dress and subject a woman to court proceedings. If that doesn’t raise an eyebrow, we don’t know what will.
Art by Marian Hukom
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