CAIRO: “Egyptian authorities should act quickly to combat all forms of violence and harassment against women,” Human Rights Watch stated Friday.
The attack of Ikram, a 43-year old woman who was in Tahrir Square on inauguration day, was recorded on video as she was stripped naked and groped by a mob of men. The video has gone viral and prompted a public discussion on Egypt’s sexual harassment problems; newly elected President Sisi visited the survivor in the hospital Wednesday and apologized to her, and promised to fight harassment through a ministerial committee, which Human Rights Watch said was a “positive step.”
“This level of attention to sexual harassment from an Egyptian president needs to be judged by what actually results,” said Rothna Begum, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, adding “A comprehensive national strategy would be a vital step toward stopping attacks on women, if implemented.”
A U.N. study released in 2013 found that 99.3 percent Egyptian women have been sexually harassed, regardless of their attire.
In his final days in office former President Adly Mansour adopted a law that recognizes sexual harassment and that a victim may be male. State institutions have vowed to counter the issue through the media, education and religious institutions.
However, human rights groups call for further amendments because only non-consensual, out of wedlock vaginal penetration with a penis is considered rape under Egyptian law. Any other form of coercive sex, including anal and oral rape and penetration with any object is considered “indecent assault,” which therefore leads to far less severe penalties.
“Reform should include provisions for victim assistance, protocols and guidelines for all government officials responding to violence against women, adequate funding for agencies carrying out the reforms and for monitoring their prevention and enforcement activities,” said HRW.