CAIRO: Any person who sexually harasses a man or a woman in any form will be jailed for at least six months and fined 3,000 to 5,000 EGP, or may receive one of the two penalties, according to the amendment to the Penal Code ratified by the Cabinet Wednesday.
A 2013 United Nations study found that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed. Non-governmental organizations and anti-harassment movements have been pressuring the government to address the chronic problem of sexual harassment.
“Given what the society is witnessing of the growing phenomenon of people being subject to sexual and obscene innuendos and suggestions, as well as sexual harassment, the Cabinet approved the draft amendment of some provisions of the Penal Code,” the Cabinet’s statement read.
The amendment was first approved by interim President Adly Mansour, which applies to anyone who does anything that bears sexual or obscene innuendos, with a sign, word, act, or any other form of communication, the statement added.
If the action is repeated by stalking or following the victim, the perpetrator would be sentenced to a minimum of a year in prison or a fine of 5,000 to 10,000 EGP, or one of the two penalties. The punishments would be doubled if the perpetrator is convicted again.
If someone propositions another person sexually, he or she would be sentenced to at least a year in prison and a fine of 10,000 to 20,000 EGP, or one of the two penalties.
If sexual harassment is inflicted by a relative, a server or someone with a professional or educational authority over the victim, or who is exploiting favorable circumstances to pressure the victim, the perpetrator would be jailed for two to five years and fined 20,000 to 50,000 EGP.
Eleven human rights organizations, including Nazra for Feminist Studies, requested on April 1 that the Judiciary Authority restrict the use of clemency in cases of sexual violence and oblige judges to explain their reasons for granting clemency.
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 for a man who allegedly raped his nine-year-old niece, sentencing him to five years in absentia in December 2013.
The penalties for indecent assault in the Egyptian Penal Code had been 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.
Presidential candidate Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told ONtv on Tuesday that he would use the media, education and legislation to address the chronic problem of sexual harassment.
Egypt is party to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, but its laws are still far from protecting the rights found in the convention it ratified.
Only non-consensual, out-of-wedlock vaginal penetration with a penis is considered rape in Egyptian law. Any other form of coercive sex is considered “indecent assault,” which results in far less severe penalties.
Further, only a male can be a rapist and a female can be raped, according to law.
According to international law, unwanted sexual penetration of the vagina or anus of the victim using a penis or any other object is considered rape, and coercive penetration of the mouth using a penis is also considered rape.