A man walks past anti-sexual harassment graffiti along Mohamed Mahmoud street near Tahrir Square in Cairo. The Arabic words read, "No harassment - Be man and Protect her" (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour has approved a new anti-sexual harassment law by adding it as an amendment to the Egyptian penal code, presidential spokesman Ihab Badawi said on Thursday.
Mansour applied the amendment after it was approved by the cabinet a month ago and legally reviewed by the State Council.
The law imposes jail terms of no less than six months and/or fines of LE3,000 to LE5,000 ($419 to 700) on those who are found guilty of sexual harassment in public or private areas, with harassment defined as gestures or words or any modern means of communication, or any other action that carries sexual or pornographic hints.
If the harasser continues the action, essentially stalking the woman, before they are apprehended then he will be punished with no less than one year in jail and a fine from LE5,000 to LE10,000.
In case the offense is repeated over time, the maximum penalties of imprisonment and fines are doubled.
Another amendment of the law states a punishment of one year in jail and a fine of LE10,000 to LE20,000 for soliciting sexual conduct.
Even stricter penalties will be imposed on those who use their authority in settings of family, work or education to commit sexual harassment, who will face a jail sentence of two to five years in jail and a fine of LE20,000 to LE50,000. The same penalty applies to harassment conducted by two persons or more, or under the threat of a weapon.
There had previously been no specific law proscribing sexual harassment in Egypt. However, three articles in the penal code were sometimes applied in cases of sexual harassment, which were amended in Thursday's decision.
Sexual harassment has been a growing problem in Egypt in the past 10 years.
Out of hundreds of women surveyed, more than 99 percent across seven of the country's 27 governorates reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment, ranging from minor harassment to rape, according to an April 2013 report by the United Nations along with Egypt's Demographic Centre and the National Planning Institute.
Reacting to Mansour's amendments on Thursday, Egypt's National Council for Women (NCW) described the decision as "an honour" for Egyptian woman and an important step towards eliminate this shameful phenomenon.
"(The decision) reflects the keenness of the state and the interest in the protection of women and preservation of their rights," the NCW statement said.