Author: Emma Sundkvist (Lund University)
Activism against sexual violence was one of the Egyptian Revolution’s most significant mobilising forces, but the country’s return to authoritarian rule has circumvented possibilities for organising and carrying out political resistance, including activism against sexual harassment. This article shows that despite this political oppression, young feminists continue to raise their voices and organise against the continuing problem of sexual violence. To illustrate this, the article draws on interviews considering a recent controversy surrounding allegations of sexual violence within the Egyptian political party Bread and Freedom.
Interviewees describe that instead of receiving support in their criticism of the party’s handling of the accusations, they were criticised by feminist and human rights activists, creating serious fragmentation among earlier united activists. The analysis shows that when young feminists saw former allies abandon the movement’s previously formulated objectives against sexual violence, their collective memory of past achievements bolstered their conviction that they should compromise neither on the definition of sexual violence nor on the ways to confront it. In fact, their careful adherence to the activism’s past principles and efforts serves as a mechanism for sustaining continuity in their feminist movement even as the political climate circumscribes opportunities for activism.