“This government does not see women as a priority,” Komsan said.
Others worry that policy changes, when they happen, will be concentrated only on helping ease the way to a more conservative society. Last week, a female news announcer on state television wore a head scarf for the first time in the history of the organization. The move won praise, because having presenters cover their hair allows them to reflect society more broadly. Still, some women’s advocates fear that measures that ensure other liberties, such as family law that gives more rights to women, will be passed over in the constitution that is being written.
Where the government has failed to step up to combat harassment, new groups are trying to fill the gap by confronting harassers directly. During the Eid festival that marked the end of Ramadan last month, volunteers headed to crowded subway stations dressed in reflective yellow vests that gave them a hint of officialdom. When they saw men riding on the women’s-only cars — which were instituted to protect women from harassment in the first place — they ushered the men off and pushed them toward a nearby police officer. In other instances, they protected women who said they had been grabbed or touched.
Over three days, they encountered 20 cases of harassment, said Nihal Saad Zaghloul, 26, one of the organizers.
“If 10 guys are going to the movies somewhere downtown, and there are just a few women around,’’ Zaghloul said, the men “know they can get away with it.”
But the enforcers’ work appeared to draw a quick response. Last week, Cairo’s subway system instituted a new harassment hotline that promises to dispatch a police officer at the next station in case of problems. Zaghloul hopes it works.
“We have laws,” she said, “but they will never be applied if society blames the woman.”
Haitham Tabei and Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.