High-tech answer to harassment on Egypt's streets

CAIRO // It's a problem nearly every woman in the Egyptian capital has experienced – leering, whistles, groping or other sexual harassment on Cairo's thoroughfares and backalleys. Soon they'll be able to instantly speak out on the Internet when it happens.

A planned website, Harrasmap, will allow women to quickly report instances of harassment via text message or Twitter, to be loaded onto a digital map of Cairo to show hotspots and areas that might be dangerous for women to walk alone. The data will be shared with activists, media, and police.

"The whole idea is to have user-generated information," said Engy Ghozlan, one of the volunteer activists organizing the program, which is set to launch in the coming months. Simply feeling that she is not alone, Ms Ghozlan said, can help a woman who is feeling powerless. "It's actually encouraging to know that," she said.

The map could also give a graphic depiction of the extent of a problem that women say is pervasive in Egypt, but which authorities are only starting to acknowledge. A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights found that 83 per cent of Egyptian women and 98 per cent of foreign women living in Cairo said they had been harassed in some way - and 62 per cent of men admitted to harrassing.

But until recently, the issue was rarely dealt with publicly. Only after Web videos of women being molested in the street by crowds of young men during a holiday four years ago did media begin discussing the problem. Since then, a bill outlining criminal punishment for sexual harassment has gone to parliament, though it has yet to vote on it.

There are numerous theories as to why harassment is so common in Cairo. Some attribute it to growing a growing Muslim conservatism spreading the idea that women should stay out of the public sphere. Others cite widespread unemployment among the youth, leaving them bored, frustrated and unable to marry. Many Egyptians see a broader breakdown of courtesy and morals, a malaise from Egypt's poor economy and political stagnation.

Organizers of Harassmap say the problem is not being overblown, effecting women whether or not they wear the conservative Muslim headscarf and reaching the point were women avoid the streets.

"It's become part of their everyday life that they have to endure," said Ms Ghozlan.

They hope the modern platform of Harassmap will make it easier for women to speak out.

The site, which will be anonymous, is to give women a tool for expression and a feeling of solidarity, Ms Ghozlan said – though it is not a counseling hot line or a replacement for alerting police. After sending an SMS message to the site, women will receive encouragement, safety tips, and instructions on how to file a police report.

The plan resembles a site launched in multiple cities around the world, called Hollaback, where women write about incidents where they felt violated or harassed. The sites have gained popularity for the catharsis they offer, and posts frequently feature sassy language and a cell-phone picture of the perpetrator.

Cairo's online map will run off a platform called Ushahidi, an open-source software first developed to report violence in Kenya after 2008 elections there. Since then test models of it have run in South Africa, Gaza and India.

Women activists welcome the idea, but say it can't go far enough.

Azza Sulieman, director of the Center for Egyptian Woman's Legal Assistance, says Harassmap will be a useful but might exclude the illiterate and less tech-savvy Egyptians. Also, it faces a cultural norm that discourages women from talking about harassment or blames their dress or behavior.

Ms Suleiman's centre, located in the poor Cairo neighborhood of Bolaq al-Dakrour, helps women in legal issues of divorce or harassment and offers literacy classes. She noted that it takes a long time to gain the trust of a woman enough for her to speak about sexual abuse or harassment.

"The issue is sensitive," Ms Suleiman said. "Sometimes, the first time, she doesn't tell, the second time, she doesn't tell, the third time, she tells."

And Noha Aly, also at the center, says courts must address the issue.

In 2008, a judge sentenced an Egyptian man to three years in prison for harassment, a ruling hailed by women's activists as a rare instance of authorities taking action. But Ms Aly notes that the case was unique, since the woman was able to grab the man harassing her and drag him to a police station.

More men must be held accountable, which hot lines and reporting sites like Harassmap cannot do, Ms Aly said.

"Legally we need a criminal," she said.

Stamp duty timeline

December 2014: Former UK chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne reforms stamp duty land tax (SDLT), replacing the slab system with a blended rate scheme, with the top rate increasing to 12 per cent from 10 per cent:

Up to £125,000 – 0%; £125,000 to £250,000 – 2%; £250,000 to £925,000 – 5%; £925,000 to £1.5m: 10%; More than £1.5m – 12%

April 2016: New 3% surcharge applied to any buy-to-let properties or additional homes purchased.

July 2020: Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils SDLT holiday, with no tax to pay on the first £500,000, with buyers saving up to £15,000.

March 2021: Mr Sunak extends the SDLT holiday at his March 3 budget until the end of June.

April 2021: 2% SDLT surcharge added to property transactions made by overseas buyers.

June 2021: SDLT holiday on transactions up to £500,000 expires on June 30.

July 2021: Tax break on transactions between £125,000 to £250,000 starts on July 1 and runs until September 30.


What: 11th edition of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship

When: December 27-29, 2018

Confirmed: men: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem, Hyeon Chung, Karen Khachanov; women: Venus Williams

Tickets: www.ticketmaster.ae, Virgin megastores or call 800 86 823

Why your domicile status is important

Your UK residence status is assessed using the statutory residence test. While your residence status – ie where you live - is assessed every year, your domicile status is assessed over your lifetime.

Your domicile of origin generally comes from your parents and if your parents were not married, then it is decided by your father. Your domicile is generally the country your father considered his permanent home when you were born. 

UK residents who have their permanent home ("domicile") outside the UK may not have to pay UK tax on foreign income. For example, they do not pay tax on foreign income or gains if they are less than £2,000 in the tax year and do not transfer that gain to a UK bank account.

A UK-domiciled person, however, is liable for UK tax on their worldwide income and gains when they are resident in the UK.

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