CAIRO: The National Council for Women today, along with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and some of the Cabinet publicly launched its “National Strategy to Prevent Violence Against Women.”
“Proceeding from our belief in the responsibility of the State to confront violence against women, which has increased recently, we announce in this memorandum and according to constitutional rights for women, that everyone, including women, should live a violence-free life,” National Council for Women head Mervat al-Talawy said Monday during the launching of the campaign.
Mahlab said during the conference that the State is responsible for securing women’s rights, and that women should be equal with men. “We are committed to doing our job, and providing women with suitable political representation and a safe life free of all forms of violence,” Mahlab said.
Nazra for Feminist Studies last February issued a concept paper listing what it considers sexual violence against women. The paper listed obvious practices like rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment, but also listed practices like pregnancy tests, vaginal and anal tests and virginity tests, which in the past have been frequently employed by security forces against female dissidents.
Last January, a coalition of political parties including the Dostor Party, Egypt Social Democratic Party, Bread and Freedom Party, Masr al-Horreya and Popular Current Party issued a joint statement condemning virginity tests on female prisoners conducted by government prison personnel. The practice was documented to be in use during the Hosni Mubarak and Supreme Council of the Armed Forces periods, and allegedly continued to be used following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi. In March, a group of detained female Al-Azhar University students claimed eight of them had been forced to undergo virginity tests while in prison, and 35 were subjected to pregnancy tests.
Violence against women has come to the forefront of public conversation in Egypt after a series of high profile group sexual assaults in Tahrir Square immediately before and during the inauguration of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in June. Some of the assaults were videotaped by bystanders, and one clip showing a bruised and battered nude woman fleeing her attackers caused national outrage when it went viral on social media.
Sisi visited the woman in the video as she recovered from the assault in the hospital and apologized to her and all Egyptian women. He promised the government will enact strict laws in order to end sexual violence against women.