Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Furor over Egyptian PM's remarks on poor women

Lawyers file suits after technocrat's contentious words

  • Print

CAIRO, Egypt -- Egypt's prime minister faced uproar, derision and even lawsuits Thursday after he blamed health problems of babies in impoverished villages on nursing mothers who "out of ignorance" don't clean their breasts and talked of village women getting raped in the fields.

Hesham Kandil made the remarks as he tried to make a point about poverty at a press conference aired live on TV this week. The backlash put the previously little-known technocrat appointed by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi under a spotlight.

Rights advocates and activists said Thursday it showed a prime minister who is out of his depth -- and who holds elitist and patriarchal attitudes that blame poor women for everything from not bringing their children up right to bringing dishonour on society.

A number of lawyers in Beni Sweif, a province Kandil mentioned specifically, filed lawsuits against him, accusing him of libel, an official at the top prosecutor's office said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to the press.

Kandil was responding to a question about whether economic policies are increasing poverty in Egypt and how poverty contributed to the wave of unrest since late January.

With a muddled and stumbling response, Kandil seemed to be trying to show he was aware of the depth of poverty in Egypt. "I've been around," he insisted.

"In the 21st century, there are still villages in Egypt where babies are infected with diarrhea... because their mothers nursing them, out of their ignorance, don't do the personal hygiene of cleaning their breasts," Kandil he said.

He spoke of visiting villages in Beni Sweif, just south of Cairo, in 2004, saying, "There is no running water or sewage."

"Men go to the mosque... Women go to the field and get raped," he said, apparently meaning men wash at the mosque while women go to the river to wash. "This is happening in Egypt."

"Egypt is full of miseries," he said. "The solution is not in violence."

Many were baffled over what point he was trying to make exactly. But critics said his comments reflected the conservative mindset of his Islamist backers -- the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, or their ultraconservative allies.

"His talk reflects extreme shallow vision and ignorance of everything related to the Egyptian community and all the problems that the Egyptian women are suffering," said Nehad Aboul-Qomsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women rights, a vocal critic of the Islamists.

She saw his rape comment as implying the women were to blame for going out, while men go to mosques.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2013 0

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Police speak out on Red River search

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose heads for shade in the sunshine Friday afternoon at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg - Day 26– June 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you plan on attending any of the CMHR opening weekend events? (select all that apply)

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google