CAIRO — Egyptian women are growing increasingly angry and militant as they deal with one of the unintended consequences of the Arab Spring: an epidemic of sexual assault that law enforcement has failed to contain.
The backlash, which includes self-defense courses for women and even threats of violent retaliation, is fueled by ultraconservative Islamists who suggest that women invite assault by attending anti-government protests where they mix with men.
At marches against sexual harassment in Cairo, women have brandished kitchen knives in the air. Stenciled drawings on building walls depict girls fighting off men with swords. Signs threaten to “cut off the hand” of attackers.
The reaction comes at a particularly heated moment. While the latest wave of demonstrations against President Mohammed Morsi’s rule has cooled in recent days, large protests have grown increasingly violent.