Egypt: Egypt's cabinet plans new law to fight sexual harrassment

Ahram Online

Prime Minister Hisham Qandil stated on Sunday using his official Facebook page that his cabinet, along with the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the National Council for Women, are working on finding ways to wipe out sexual harassment in Egypt.

Qandil revealed in the statement that a law is currently being drafted to combat harassment on the streets through imposing harsh penalties, adding that they are "dealing with sexual harassment as a disastrous phenomenon.

"The statement further argued that one of the solutions to this crisis is to raise awareness through the media and among the younger generation, through adding informative materials to the curriculum of the Ministry of Education highlighting the dangers of such behaviour.

In another attempt to fight sexual harassment, the MOI announced on Wednesday that surveillance cameras will be installed in streets and squares in Cairo to detect incidents of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment has been dramatically on the rise in Egypt in the past few years. With crowded streets, sexual harassment peaks during public holidays.

One notorious incident of harassment occurred in 2006, when several women were brutally harassed and stripped of their clothes by a mob during Eid El-Fitr celebrations in downtown Cairo. The event played a major role in bringing the issue of harassment in Egypt to light.

According to a survey issued in 2008 by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, 83 per cent of Egyptian women in Egypt and 98 per cent of foreign women have been exposed to sexual harassment at least once.

There are currently three articles in the criminal law that can be applied in the case of harassment. The first is "insulting" (Article 306), which can be applied to cat-calling and other verbal harassment on the street. The punishment can range from a fine of 100 LE (roughly $17) to one month in prison. The second is "indecent behaviour," (Article 278) which applies to cases of indecent exposure, trailing and stalking and punishment ranges from a fine to three years in prison.

The third is "sexual assault" (Article 268) which covers cases of touching and other physical harassment with punishment ranging from three to 15 years in prison.