I Saw Harassment claims sexual violence in Aswan, government denies
I Saw Harassment logo - Photo courtesy of I Saw Harassment official Facebook page

CAIRO: Supervisors of a youth camp in Aswan transferred women campers to housing far from the housing of their male counterparts to prevent further sexual harassment, after cases were reported on Monday, according to a Tuesday statement by I Saw Harassment. 

The Ministry of Youth and Sport organized a subsidized recreational camp for youth in Luxor and Aswan, southern Egypt, to promote domestic tourism on Friday.

The ministry denied any incidents of sexual harassment, saying the report is “irresponsible and totally false” in a Tuesday statement reported by several media outlets.

A problem occurred between the supervisors of the camp and the youth because they wanted to spend more time outside and the supervisors wanted them to return to the camp, Mahmoud Merza, head of the central department of youth accommodation at the Ministry of Youth and Sports told Youm7 Tuesday.

Hany Roushdi, undersecretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Aswan, denied the incident in a phone interview with The Cairo Post.

According to I Saw Harassment, female campers were sexually harassed by their male counterparts while attending a sound and light show and visiting the High Dam, among other tourist attractions.

Two of the camp supervisors were subject to severe pressure due to their inability to control the male campers, leading to their transferral to a hospital, eyewitnesses told I Saw Harassment.

The camp organizers discussed the issue late Monday until early Tuesday, and heard the testimonies of five girls who said they were physically and verbally harassed, the statement said.

I Saw Harassment called for an investigation into the incidents to bring the perpetrators to justice, and the proper retraining of social administrators and workers in the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

The movement also called for specific standards for selecting young men and women to participate in such camps, which are funded by Egyptian taxpayers.

In a different incident, Aswan prosecution detained a policeman Tuesday for harassing a U.S.-Filipino tourist at Abu Simbel temple in Aswan, reported by an officer at the surveillance room of the temple, according to Youm7.

The officer said a surveillance camera recorded the policeman when “he put his hand on her bottom” as she was taking pictures with him and other staff at the temple. The tourist refused to accuse him of sexual harassment, Youm7 reported.

Presidential Advisor for Women’s Affairs Sakina Fouad told CBC channel on March 29 that interim President Adly Mansour received a draft amendment to the Penal Code for ratification, seeking to redefine the limits of what constitutes sexual harassment in Egyptian law.

A sexual harasser is “anyone who stalks or follows a person in public or private space by word, sign, modern means of communication, or any other form that bears sexual or obscene suggestions or innuendos,” Fouad said.

Such perpetrator would be “jailed for at least one year and fined with a minimum of 10,000 EGP (U.S. $1400) or a maximum of 20,000 EGP, or one of the two penalties, according to Fouad.

Ten human rights organizations released a statement Tuesday, criticizing the state’s “unilateral handling” of the draft without social dialogue with rights organizations.

The draft stipulates “stalking and following” as a cornerstone for the crime, while the crime may occur without stalking or following, the statement said.

The organizations, including Nazra for Feminist Studies and the Cairo Center for Development (CCD), called for specific and clear definitions of crimes of sexual violence, and restricting judges’ authority when using clemency in their rulings.

Although article 268 of the Penal Code sets a penalty of 25 years in prison if a person “indecently assaults” a relative younger than 18, a judge used clemency with a man who allegedly raped his nine year old niece and sentenced him to five years in absentia in December 2013.

The penalties for indecent assaults in the Egyptian Penal Code were already toughened in 2011 by the then-ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces to deter wide-scale violence against women, in light of the widespread lawlessness that followed the January 25 Revolution.

The National Council for Women (NCW) signed a protocol with the human rights department of the Ministry of Justice Monday to implement Egypt’s commitments to ratified international human and women’s rights conventions, according to a statement by the NCW.

Ahmed al-Sergany, head of the Ministry of Justice’s human rights department, said at his meeting with head of the NCW Mervat al-Talawy that the ministry established a unit in the department to combat violence against women, the statement said.

Concerned parties, including judges, prosecutors, police officers and forensic doctors, will receive training courses to properly address the cases of sexual violence, according to Sergany.

Sergany added that the ministry decided to amend the article on indecent assault in the penal code, rather than issuing a new law due to “time constraints and the urgent need to take action” after a female student was sexually harassed at Cairo University, reported Youm7.

However, the ministry will work on issuing a law on sexual violence as soon as possible, Sergany said.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Tourism will send a file with proposals on combating sexual harassment to Fouad to consolidate it in the anticipated draft, Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou told Al-Hayat TV Monday.

The Ministry of Tourism closed a hotel in Sharm al-Sheikh in March after a Briton was allegedly raped therein. The perpetrator has already been detained.

In her phone interview with CBC, Fouad called for lowering the age at which people can be tried as adults, which is currently set at 18, noting that this leads to more crimes as they are sent to juvenile detentions and soon get out.

She further stated that she has noticed that since the five-year-old child Zeina was murdered after two boys tried to rape her, several similar crimes followed, noting that such crimes continue as criminals spend a few years in prison and then are allowed to go free, as judges are restricted by law.

Zeina was a young girl in Port Said who was lured to the top of a building by two teenage boys, who then attempted to rape her. When Zeina screamed, the two boys, 16 and 17 years old, killed her by throwing her off the building roof in November 2013. A court sentenced the two perpetrators to 15 and 20 years in prison in February 2014.

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