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91 sexual assualt cases over 4 days in Egypt's Tahrir Square: HRW

HRW report highlights problematic 'official discourse' on sexual assault in Egypt; calls on all political leaders to address issue

Ahram Online , Wednesday 3 Jul 2013
Volunteers form a safe zone between men and women to avoid sexual harassment during a protest against President Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 2, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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Human Rights Watch reported on its website Wednesday that at least 91 women have been subject to sexual assault in Tahrir Square during the first four days of anti-government protests that erupted on 30 June.

Citing statistics from Egyptian anti-sexual harassment groups, Human Rights Watch called on officials and political leaders "across the spectrum" to condemn such acts and to immediately address the "horrific levels" of sexual violence against women.

“The rampant sexual attacks during the Tahrir Square protests highlight the failure of the government and all political parties to face up to the violence that women in Egypt experience on a daily basis in public spaces,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of the human rights watchdog, wrote on its website.

The report stated that women exposed to sexual assault are usually unwilling to talk in public about their experiences because of the "social stigma."

Additionally, Human Rights Watch highlighted the "official discourse" in Egypt as a major contributor to the problem.

"In February 2012, members of the Shura Council, Egypt’s legislative body, blamed women for the mob assaults in Tahrir, with one member, General Adel Afifi, saying that women contribute 100 percent in their rape because they put themselves in such circumstances,” the report stated.

The organisation called on Egypt to abide by relevant international law pertaining to sexual assault and to provide reproductive, sexual, and mental health services to victims of sexual violence.

Egypt is party to several international human rights conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention Against Torture, the report noted.

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