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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.46

Gendered Spaces and Bystander Solidarity on the Cairo Metro


  • Dr. Sandra FERNANDEZ

Primary authors


During and following the 18 days of protest against the rule of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, there were spikes in harassment and assault in public spaces, and patrols were formed to combat these incidents. Aware of the importance of bystanders as witnesses and potential interveners to harassment, movements began awareness campaigns in the streets and in the metro. The Cairo metro has specific cars designated ‘women only’, suggesting the existence of a safe public space, but it is common for men to enter these cars, often without consequence. Based upon PhD research undertaken with an Egyptian anti-sexual harassment movement, this paper demonstrates the importance of solidarity in combating sexual harassment through two contrasting experiences of the Cairo metro that occurred on the same night. As the story unfolds, I reflect upon my own positionality, draw out the importance of support from bystanders in the moment of harassment (Replogle: 2011, Abdelmonem & Galan: 2017), and highlight how shifting notions of public/private and male/female spaces further problematise the push to create safe spaces for women in public. The latter reinforces the need for bystander support, but we are also reminded that women’s rights to public spaces are still subject to mass perception.