Egyptian prosecution refers 13 suspected sexual harassers to trial

Ahram Online, Saturday 14 Jun 2014

Sexual harassment was criminalised by a law issued last week

group of young men harass three girls in Cairo
In this undated image made from video released by the producers of "Awel el Kheit" or "the Thread" which airs on the private TV station ONTV, a group of young men harass three girls in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: AP)

Egypt's prosecutor-general on Saturday referred 13 Egyptian men to trial on charges of sexually assaulting a number of women last week during inaugural celebrations in Tahrir Square.

According to Al-Ahram Arabic news website, the decision came following investigations that included hearing 52 eyewitnesses who were present in Tahrir Square on 3 June when one of the assaults took place.

A prosecution statement said that the 13 men assaulted a woman on 3 June in an incident captured on video, and subsequently assaulted six women on 8 June. The defendants face charges of abduction, forceful sexual assault, physical torture, forceful theft, attempted rape and attempted murder. The statement adds that if convicted the defendants could face life imprisonment.

A video of a woman being assaulted, uploaded onto social media sites on Sunday, caused public uproar. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi later visited the woman in hospital, offering his apologies.

One of the defendants, who is 15 years old, is charged with recording and publishing a video that breaches public decency.

Earlier this morning, another two defendants were sent to an urgent trial to on charges of sexual harassment in a separate incident.

Despite numerous reports of sexual assault and harassment of women at public protests and gatherings, and an epidemic of street harassment, prosecutions against perpetrators remain relatively uncommon.

A United Nations survey from last year suggests that over 99 percent of Egyptian women have suffered some form of sexual harassment, including verbal and physical harassment.

The occurrence of several sexual assaults last week --during celebrations in Tahrir Square of president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's election victory – appears to have focused public attention on the problem. El-Sisi has ordered the formation of a ministerial committee to investigate ways to combat the problem, and has urged the interior ministry to take action against sexual harassers.

Days before he left office, former interim president Adly Mansour issued a law criminalising sexual harassment for the first time. The new law imposes stiff punishments on sexual harassers, including prison sentences of between six months and five years.



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