CAIRO: In the wake of a series of high profile sexual harassment cases in and around public celebrations during this year’s presidential election, government and civic groups in Egypt are preparing to deter harassment during upcoming Eid al-Fitr celebrations beginning Monday.
The “I Saw Harassment” initiative announced it will form two operation rooms in downtown Cairo and Kafr el-Sheikh to raise awareness about sexual violence against Egyptian women, Fathi Farid, the initiative coordinator, told The Cairo Post Saturday.
Gatherings and crowded places—especially in public squares—raise the probability of sexual assault according to Farid. Many women participating in these events become vulnerable to mob harassment.
The initiative aims to eliminate sex crimes and the harassment of women in addition to monitoring, documenting and immediately intervening in cases of individual or mass harassment during Eid-al-Fitr, Farid said.
He also said the initiative will distribute 4,000 flyers during Eid al-Fitr, which will display provisions of the new harassment law, emergency contact numbers and encouraging messages to women, girls and their families on the importance of resisting harassers.
In related news, The Cairo Center for Development and Human Rights (CIHRS) announced in a Friday press statement the launch of an operation room to monitor sexual violence and harassment targeting women during Eid al-Fitr.
CIHRS has set up a hotline at 01210009192 ahead of Eid al-Fitr for women to call and report any incidents of sexual harassment.
The center has created a document titled “How to Report a Harasser to the Police” to guide women on how to legally protect themselves.
The paper instructs women to catch the harasser, ask for help from passersby, go to the nearest police station and file a report against the harasser. The paper also stressed the necessity of recording all the data related to the harassment incident, the place of the incident, how it happened and also whether the harasser was arrested or not.
The CIHRS also called for providing all legal support and necessary mechanisms to women who have been exposed to harassment or rape and encouraged women and girls who have been subjected to sexual harassment to report such incidents at police stations.
The Interior Ministry has indicated it is also taking action on sexual harassment and assaults.
“The Interior Ministry is establishing a new department to combat crimes of violence and harassment inside all security directorates across Egypt,” said Rady Abdel Moaty, the ministry’s director of community outreach in a phone interview with AlQahera AlYoum television program Friday.
Moaty added that the security plan for Eid al-Fitr festivities includes undercover officers in all crowded places. He said that the ministry, in coordination with the security directorates, had allocated a hotline number to receive complaints during celebrations.
Authorities and civic groups today are paying lip service to anti-harassment initiatives due in large part to public outrage in June following the release of a video that showed a mob harassing and stripping a woman naked in Tahrir Square on June 4.
Former interim President Adly Mansour—in one of his final acts before being succeeded by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi—amended articles in the 1937 Criminal Code to include criminalizing sexual harassment, which now sentences harassers to at least a year in prison and a fine of at least 3,000 EGP ($422). Already under the new amendments, there have been a number of harassers arrested and sent to trial. This has been welcomed by many women’s organizations, even though some demanded an independent law addressing harassment and detailed mechanisms to overcome it.
However, Egyptian law still uses a very narrow definition of rape out of sync with most international definitions. In Egypt, only non-consensual vaginal penetration with a penis is considered rape, and marital rape is not a recognized crime. Other sexual assaults, despite their severity, are still filed under harassment, which even with the Mansour amendments carries a less severe penalty. A rape conviction in Egypt can result in capital punishment.
In April 2013, The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women issued a report showing the most recent statistics of sexual harassment in Egypt. The study found that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have been exposed to some form of sexual harassment.