Egyptian cabinet introduces plan to combat sexual harassment

Ahram Online, Friday 13 Jun 2014

Plan includes a competition to choose the best TV series screened during Ramadan which promotes women's rights

Meeting headed by prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab to look into means of fighting sexual harassment in Egypt, 12 June 2014 (Photo courtesy of cabinet Facebook page)

A ministerial committee tasked with examining the issue of sexual harassment in Egypt announced its plan on to combat the problem following a meeting on Thursday.

The plan includes a heavy security presence in public squares and crowded areas. More police officers will also be tasked with joining the ministry's human rights sector to activate their role in confronting harassment in collaboration with the National Council for Women and civil society.

The plan also involves “activating the implementation” of the recently-issued anti-harassment law. Sexual harassment was criminalised for the first time in Egypt by a law issued last week. Penalties include fines and jail sentences of up to five years. The National Center for Social and Criminological

Research will also be charged with studying incidents of harassment and violence against women to document the different reasons behind the phenomenon and in order to put in place a national strategy for eradicating it.

The plan also includes implementing recommendations made in two studies conducted by the education ministry regarding the role of education, family and society in fighting harassment. School curriculums will be amended to raise awareness of equality and to raise awareness of drugs and violence against women.

The role of educational, cultural, religious and sports institutes must be activated to "guide the youth towards beneficial activities" and to distract them from "destructive practices such as drugs".

Also on the agenda is a competition to choose the best TV series screened during Ramadan -- a popular month for TV drama -- that promotes women’s rights, tolerance and chivalry. In terms of media, awareness campaigns are planned, and the National Council of Women’s telephone hotline for reporting harassment will be publicised.

State-affiliated hospitals will also be asked to care for victims of sexual assaults. Thursday's meeting, held based on the request of president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and headed by prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab, was attended by the ministers of interior, education, social solidarity, and religious endowment.

Also present was head of the National Council for Women and representatives from the ministry of justice, Al-Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Church. Egyptian women have long complained of high rates of sexual harassment, with one United Nations survey from last year suggesting that over 99 percent of Egyptian women.

Campaigners have reported dozens of incidents of mob sexual assaults and rapes during public gatherings since 2011, and have complained of a failure of the authorities to respond to the epidemic of assaults.

On Sunday, a video apparently showing such an assault went viral, provoking public outrage and prompting condemnation from Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who on Wednesday visited the victim of the assault in hospital. -

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