El-Sisi's attention to sexual harassment needs to be judged on 'results': Human Rights Watch

Ahram Online, Saturday 14 Jun 2014

A number of sexual assaults were reported in Tahrir Square during celebrations of El-Sisi's inauguration 8 June

sexual harassment
File Photo: Egyptian boys watch passing girls at the Nile bank in Cairo, Egypt, July 23, 2008 (Photo: AP)

Human Rights Watch released a statement Friday saying that "gruesome sexual attacks on women marred President [Abdel-Fattah] El-Sisi's election and inauguration."

A number of sexual assaults were reported in Tahrir Square, the cradle of the Egyptian revolution, during celebrations of El-Sisi's inauguration on 8 June.

One woman's ordeal with mob sexual assault emerged on YouTube showing her being stripped of her clothes and attacked by a number of men. Her body was covered with blood.

Both El-Sisi and his wife, Egypt's First Lady Intissar Amer, visited the sexual assault victim separately.

El-Sisi also made a number of moves to combat sexual harassment in Egypt, one of which is forming a committee to address issue.

Human Rights Watch said in its statement that the "committee is a positive step, but effective comprehensive action needs to follow."

The statement also said that this level of attention to sexual harassment from an Egyptian president "needs to be judged by what actually results."

"A comprehensive national strategy would be a vital step toward stopping attacks on women, if implemented," the statement added on behalf of Rothna Begum, a researcher at the New York based organisation.

Human Rights Watch also criticised Egypt's laws on violence against women describing them as having "major gaps."

"There is no specific law on domestic violence. The penal code has an outdated, narrow definition of rape. Even recent amendments on sexual harassment need improvement," the statement added.

Last week, former Interim President Adly Mansour issued a law criminalising sexual harassment for the first time in Egypt. Women’s rights groups viewed the move as a positive step, but many have called for further legal reforms that would widen the definitions of rape and sexual assault.

Sexual harassment against women has been a rampant problem in Egypt for a decade. A United Nations survey from last year suggests that over 99 percent of Egyptian women have suffered some form of sexual harassment, from minor incidents to rape. 

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