Groper grabs a prison sentence in Cairo

An Egyptian woman hops on the hood of her harasser's car, then drags him to the cops.

Published October 23, 2008 8:45PM (EDT)

In the U.S., when a woman is groped on the subway, she can snap a cellphone photo of her harasser and, in the name of public humiliation, post it to the Web site HollaBack. But in Egypt, where 83 percent of women are sexually harassed, a more direct approach is sometimes required. For example, (literally) stopping a harasser in his tracks by jumping on the hood of his car.

Last June, 27-year-old Noha al-Ostaz was walking down a busy Cairo street when Sherif Jebriel pulled up in his van, reached out of the window and grabbed her breast. As Ostaz continued to walk, he crept alongside her, continuing to grab and pull at her. Ostaz yelled for him to get out of the vehicle, but he refused. So she planted herself on the front of his van like an oversize hood ornament, "vowing she would rather be hit by the vehicle than get off and let the man drive away," according to the New York Times. He then got out of the car and she "physically dragged the man to a police station about four blocks away."

Holy ovaries of steel!

What's more, she followed through with her aggressive, take-him-hostage approach and took the skeev to court. And this is, unfortunately, where I have to be a buzz kill, because this story can't be all fist-pumping and you-go-girling. The groper was sentenced to prison for three years. That's shocking on two counts: It's the first time an Egyptian court has ever jailed a groper and, more important, it's a hugely excessive sentence by Western standards, considering there was no mention of previous assaults.

Yet the true hero in this story is Ostaz, not the Egyptian justice system. It's no small feat to take a groper to court in a society where many compare unveiled women to unwrapped candy bars (and, when they are "wrapped," blame them for inciting male desire through inappropriate behavior). The Los Angeles Times put it this way: She "broke the silence and shame many Egyptian women and tourists face when they confront profanities and assaults."

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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