Egypt's parliament considers toughening sexual harassment penalties

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 10 Jul 2021

The House will also amend its internal bylaws to subject MPs' salaries to taxes and fees

Egypt's parliament

Egypt's House of Representatives will hold plenary sessions on Sunday and Monday to discuss a new legislative agenda and conduct a final vote on three laws before it adjourns for summer recess.

On Sunday, the House will discuss a bill drafted by Ashraf Rashad, the leader of the parliamentary majority party of Mostaqbal Watan (the Nation's Future), on toughening penalties on sexual harassment crimes.

The bill, approved by the House's Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 27 June, aims to amend Article 306 (paragraphs A & B) of the 1937 Penal Code to change the penalty imposed on assault and sexual harassment crimes from "misdemeanour" to "felony."

The amended Article 306 (Paragraph A) states that "whoever is convicted of assaulting others in public or private places in the form of sexual or pornographic gestures and insinuations, and either in words or action or via electronic, wire or wireless devices or any other technological means (such as cyber sexual harassment crimes) will be sentenced to a prison term ranging from two to four years and a fine ranging from EGP 100,000 to EGP 200,000.

The article also states that whoever is found guilty of repeating the crime in terms of chasing and tracking victims will be sentenced to a prison term ranging from three to five years and a fine from EGP 200,000 to EGP 300,000.

The amended Article 306 (Paragraph B) stipulates an amendment to the Penal Code's Article 267, setting out that offenders whose circumstances allow them to have a professional, familial, or academic authority over a victim, or otherwise exercise any kind of pressure to allow them to commit their crime, will be sentenced to a prison term no less than seven years and a fine between EGP 300,000 and EGP 500,000. The same penalty will be imposed if the sexual harassment crime was committed by two persons or more and one of them was holding a weapon.

Atef Meghawry, a member of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said the amendments aim to stem the tide of sexual harassment crimes through toughening penalties, the most important of which is changing the labelling of the sexual harassment crime from "misdemeanour" to "felony".

"This means that, unlike in the past, offenders will face the penalty of serving prison sentences and not just paying fines," said Meghawry.

The House's schedule of debate on Sunday will also include amending its internal bylaws to go in line with constitutional amendments passed in a public referendum in April 2019.

The amendments will entail modifying 27 articles of the House's internal bylaws and eliminating four others.

The amendments, drafted by deputy chairman of Mostaqbal Watan Party and head of the House's Transport Committee Alaa Abed and three other MPs, will state that MPs' salaries and financial rewards will no longer be exempted from taxes and fees.

The amendments also state that a political party having three seats – instead of 10 seats – in parliament will be allowed to be represented in the House's general committee.

Abed said while the first amendment will put the House of Representatives on an equal footing with the Senate in terms of paying taxes and fees, the second amendment will allow a greater number of political parties to have a say in the House's internal affairs which are drawn up by the general committee.

On Monday, the House will take a final vote on three laws regarding cotton production, irrigation and water resources, and automatic dismissal of state employees with links to the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups.

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