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Calls to Establish Tribunal for Women’s Abuse and Harassment in Egypt

Calls to Establish Tribunal for Women’s Abuse and Harassment in Egypt

Police women deployed to secure a protest against sexual assault in 2014. Credit: Ahmed Hamed/Aswat Masriya
Police women deployed to secure a protest against sexual assault in 2014. Credit: Ahmed Hamed/Aswat Masriya

In an effort to crackdown on violence against women and sexual harassment, the National Council of Women has proposed the establishment of special tribunals and judicial departments.

According to Ambassador Mervat Al-Tellawy, the Persident of the NCW, the proposed tribunals are part of a strategy has been formulated to tackle violence against women.

This strategy, said the Ambassador, will be announced in the presence of non-governmental organizations, women’s movements, representatives from 12 ministries and Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb in the coming days.

In statements to Youm7, Ambassador Al-Tellawy said that the strategy includes the issuance of a new legislative instrument that would aim to punish crimes of violence against women. Currently, for example, Egypt’s law does not consider forced anal penetration as rape.

The Ambassador hopes to expand the definition of violence against women in the law to include both mental and physical violence, adding that a proposed definition of violence is “any existing act on a human being, whether physical, sexual or psychological or an act causing suffering to women or girls, or the threat of such acts, whether or not they take place in the public or private sphere.” The Ambassador added that the NCW will aim to clearly include domestic violence as a form of a punishable crime.

In regards to the difficulties faced by women reporting cases of sexual violence and harassment, the Ambassador said that a main focus of the strategy would be to implement tribunals that would deal specifically with cases of violence against women, including sexual harassment, which in Egypt 99 percent of women face.

The establishment of such a tribunal, the NCW said, would occur in a short period of time.

Sexual assault epidemic

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Although the sexual assault epidemic is nothing new in Egypt, with more than 99 percent of women surveyed by the United Nations experiencing some form of sexual harassment, recently there has been an extended initiative by the government to crack down on the issue.

While thousands gathered in Tahrir Square to celebrate the inauguration of Egypt’s new President on June 8 2014, a graphic video spread on social media portraying a naked, injured woman attempting to flee a large group of men who had sexually assaulted her in the middle of the square. The woman had been with her daughter at the Square to celebrate Sisi’s Presidency.

The assault, which made headlines across the globe, was strongly condemned by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi who called on the judiciary to “vigorously enforce the law.”

The President, who had also honoured a police officer that had been injured while rescuing the victim from the group of men, also visited the victim of the June 8 sexual assault in hospital.

During the visit, the first of its kind for an Egyptian official, the newly elected President “apologized to every Egyptian woman” and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“I am speaking to the judiciary,” said the President at the hospital. “Our own flesh is being assaulted on the streets and that is unacceptable. Even if it is only one case, it is unacceptable.”

In June 2014, Egypt introduced new laws targeting sexual harassment. Previously, Egypt had no specific law forbidding sexual harassment.

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Mohamed Khairat is the Founder of Egyptian Streets.

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