Egyptian newspaper apologises for sexual harassment cartoon after social media backlash

Ahram Online , Ahram Online , Monday 11 Jul 2016

The cartoon was slammed by activists online for what they said was the punishing of victims of sexual harassment

sexual harassment
Women protest sexual harassment in Egypt (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm apologised on Sunday following a backlash on social media for a cartoon it had published on sexual harassment.

The cartoon shows a man proposing to a woman while asking her father to be thankful for the offer after “half of the young men in the neighbourhood sexually harassed her during Eid.”

The cartoon was slammed by activists online for what they said was the punishing of victims of sexual harassment.

In its apology, Al-Masry Al-Youm affirmed its "commitment to condemning this crime and fighting it by all means possible," adding that it rejects "stigmatising the victim."

Although a chronic problem in Egypt, sexual harassment and assault is more frequently reported during holiday seasons, when large crowds take to the streets. It typically surges during the three-day Eid holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

“The cartoon attacks one of the most important achievements we have accomplished over the past years, which is that women can speak up without being afraid or ashamed,” wrote Dalia Abdel-Hameed, gender and women’s rights officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Abdel-Hameed, who is one of many activists fighting what is believed to be a widespread safety issue facing women in Egypt, says the cartoon also punishes the victim by portraying her as unworthy of marriage.  

Activists have been forming intervention groups to protect women during crowded events.

Many organisations have also campaigned to raise awareness of the issue, defend women victims, who in a conservative society are often blamed, and urge them to report incidences of sexual assault.

Last February, TV presenter Reham Saeed was sentenced to six months in prison, pending appeal, for defaming a sexual assault victim on her TV show in 2015.

Saeed was also fined EGP 10,000, but can still appeal the sentence.

Saeed criticised a guest on her show who was a victim of sexual assault for dressing "indecently," implying that she was to blame for the attack. 

Sexual harassment was criminalised in 2014. The law imposes jail terms of no less than six months, and/or fines of EGP 3,000 to EGP 5,000 ($419 to $700) on those found guilty of sexual harassment.

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