Sexual harassment in Egypt: A crisis searching for a cure

Egyptian policewomen, part of a new anti-harassment force patrol in Cairo, are shown in this 2018 file photo. (AP File photo)
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Updated 04 July 2020

Sexual harassment in Egypt: A crisis searching for a cure

  • Cairo ranked worst for women’s safety, after New Delhi, Karachi and Kinshasa in a Reuters study in 2017 of 19 major cities with over 10 million people

CAIRO: Recent reports of sexual harassment in Egypt have placed the issue under an intense spotlight, following news of a 22-year-old man who harassed more than 100 female university students and allegedly raped some of them.

Egypt has long struggled to combat the problem, with several high-profile cases bringing it to the fore.

According to research on sexual violence against women by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2017, Cairo ranked worst for women’s safety, after New Delhi, Karachi and Kinshasa. The list included 19 major cities with over 10 million people.

Since the 2011 revolution which ushered in a new government, women in the capital are often subjected to harassment on a daily basis. There is a lack of public order in Egypt’s streets, and a subtle acceptance of sexual and verbal abuse of women, especially during holidays and public gatherings.

However, during the past three years, the number of sexual harassment incidents declined after the introduction of a 2014 law designed to deter harassers. Despite this, a video earlier this year showcasing sexual harassment caused uproar on social media.

The video showed dozens of young men verbally and physically harassing a 22-year-old woman on Al-Gomhoria Street in Mansoura. After she screamed, a number of young men rushed to protect her, pushed her into a car and fled the scene.

The incident shocked social media users. The Ministry of Interior later announced it had arrested seven men who allegedly took part in the attack.

The victim of the assault said: “I was walking down the street and was shocked to see men taking out their mobile phones to photograph me and my friend. I continued walking quickly and entered a nearby store to call my family. I found the men gathering in front of the shop.”

She said that the owner of the store forced her out. When she left, the men surrounded her, held her hands and ripped off her clothes. The men got into a shouting match with onlookers. A young man came to the rescue in his car to save her from the attackers.

“I arrived home unable to speak. I was afraid and did not know how to react until I found the videos on Facebook,” she said.

According to Egyptian lawyer Abdel-Hamid Rahim, a recent law to discourage sexual harassment on the streets stipulates imprisonment for one year and a fine ranging from 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($308) to 10,000 Egyptian pounds, with the possibility of an increased penalty if the harasser is a major culprit or took part in group harassment using a weapon. In such cases the penalty could include a prison sentence of five years and a fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds.

Some say the increase in harassment can be traced back to an absence of religion among youth. On Friday, the Egyptian Dar Al-Iftaa, an Islamic advisory body, described sexual harassment as a crime and a major sin.

Samia Qadri, a professor of sociology at Ain Shams University, said that society is “heading in the wrong direction” in dealing with the issue. She said many people blame young women for sexual harassment because of the way they dress.

“We already have laws to fight this phenomenon, but we do not deal with it strictly. These laws need to be activated and applied more widely, in the sense that they do not allow anyone to escape from punishment. Moving forward in applying them strictly will decrease the frequency of this issue,” Qadri said.

The most notorious harassment incident in Egypt took place in the 1990s when a disabled girl was assaulted in Al-Ataba Square, causing a huge public outcry.


Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

Updated 12 August 2020

Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

  • The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention

CAIRO: The fate of at least 35 Egyptian fishermen hangs in the balance after they were arrested by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) on Nov. 2 last year.  

The families of the fishermen have appealed to the Egyptian government to step up their efforts to secure their freedom as Cairo has been working on their release since November.

Little is known about the fate of the fishermen in Libya other than their location, after it was leaked to Egyptian authorities that they were held in the Turmina Prison, which is affiliated with the GNA.

The head of the Fishermen’s Syndicate in Kafr El-Sheikh, Ahmed Nassar, said they had not been able to communicate with the fishermen since last November and after their disappearance they came to learn that the GNA authorities had detained them.

The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention. Nassar said that the fishermen were not fishing in Libyan territory without a permit.

Nassar explained that the fishermen were working on Libyan boats. Alongside them were a number of colleagues working on boats that belong to the Al-Wefaq government. They were not approached by anyone unlike their detained colleagues who were arrested and sent to prison without being charged with any crime.

The Fishermen’s Syndicate chief said that people had called on the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the government, and the consular section had also been contacted about the matter.

Many of the detained fishermen come from Kafr El-Sheikh, while others come from Abu Qir in the governorate of Alexandria.

The fishermen had been supporting families of up to eight members.

Egyptian authorities say they are exerting great efforts to bring the fishermen back safely, while the fishermen’s families continue to demand safety and justice for the men.