By: Mohamed Khairat -Huff Post World Post
“You are not allowed to do this here,” boomed a slightly underweight and frail-looking security guard at a shopping center in Cairo shortly as I broke away from hugging a female friend good bye.
My 14-year-old self’s first response, after having read news of arrests due to public displays of affection, was “Hugging is okay. Kissing is not!”
The confused security guard looked me in the eye and slowly walked away, unsure what to make of my awkward response.
Seven years later, while Egyptian cinema screens unreservedly show abuse of women, rape and violent sex, kissing remains out of the question, both on and off the screen.
“Kissing my boyfriend on the street? I’m not crazy,” humorously exclaims 19-year-old Sarah Meguid*.
“They would first think I am a whore. And then, they would go after my boyfriend. Ironically, I would be sexually harassed along the way by someone who was so against me kissing the person I love.”
Tarek Abdel Raouf, 22, agrees with Sarah, saying he would feel uncomfortable kissing in public.
“People would criticize me, shame me. It’s just overall uncomfortable knowing that everyone around you will judge you,” says Tarek, who admits that while he would ‘not really’ kiss someone in public abroad, he would be more likely to because the reaction would not be as negative.
Agreeing with Tarek, Farah Aziz says that she has found any physical contact in public as uncomfortable.
“I met my last boyfriend on a trip in Europe. He was Egyptian as well. In Europe we didn’t have to think twice about kissing in public. However, back in Egypt even just hugging wasn’t an option. Any sort of physical contact was very uncomfortable for both of us as it felt like people were constantly staring us down,” reveals Farah.
“Funny enough those same people were the ones who made full use of the cinema’s back row once the lights were dimmed. ”
Marwa Dawoud*, 24, says she believes she should be able to show affection to her partner without fearing harassment or arrest.
“I should be able to hug and kiss my boyfriend without getting the looks, comments and potential third degree arrest,” said the 24-year-old who preferred to remain anonymous as she did not want family members questioning her beliefs. “What is it to them anyways? I’m not harming anyone. I’ve never understood why people are so intimidated by any sort of affection.”
In Egypt, public displays of affection are often prosecuted under laws of public indecency, meaning those who kiss on the streets can be fined or imprisoned.
Yet, for many in Egypt, the root of affliction towards kissing and other public displays of affection goes back to social moral codes.
“It is 3eib (a common Egyptian term that loosely translates to unacceptable),” explains blogger Enas El-Masry.
Wael Abdul Aziz says this ‘3eib-ness’ comes from the fact that kissing is often connected to sex.
“Kissing is such a taboo due to its relation to sex in the minds of many people,” says Wael, who nevertheless disagrees with it being a taboo. “That may be the reason why many people see it as a private thing that is only allowed in the privacy of your bedroom.”
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