Skip to main content

Egypt criminalizes sexual harassment

By Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Law makes it illegal to accost people by "implying sexual or obscene gestures"
  • Minimum detention ranges from 6 months to 2 years, depending on aggravating factors
  • U.N. report had found that 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment
  • Anti-harassment campaigner: Law is a "first step in the right direction"

Many stories involving horrific violence against women have been making headlines recently. CNN TV will be broadcasting live from The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict Summit in London on Tuesday at 1930 CET, and taking a closer look at stories involving sexual violence against women in Egypt, Nigeria, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

(CNN) -- Egypt's outgoing interim president issued a decree criminalizing sexual harassment to combat the widespread abuse of women in the country, a spokesman said Friday.

President Adly Mansour issued the country's first law that explicitly uses the term "sexual harassment," a statement from his office reads. The law makes the offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds.

The decree starts with a baseline prohibition, making it illegal to accost people by "implying sexual or obscene gestures" in any manner, "including modern means of communication." Absent any aggravating factor, the crime is punishable by at least six months of detention.

If the harassment is made with "the intent of receiving sexual gratification from the victim," the minimum detention rises to one year.

Egypt's new president faces challenges
Why are Egypt's sexual crimes unreported?
Egypt: Women after the revolution

And if the offender holds "a position of authority over the victim," whether social or professional, the minimum imprisonment is two years, the law reads.

A 2013 United Nations report entitled "Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women" found that 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Fathi Farid, a founder of Egypt's "I Saw Harassment" campaign against sexual violence, said the law "is a first step in the right direction, but we believe that a revision is needed to strengthen the decree."

Farid cited a lack of protection for eyewitnesses, judicial discretion in issuing punishment, and inadequate protection against gang assaults as points of weakness for the law.

Still, Farid said the law "will give women greater trust in the government and encourage victims that may have been afraid in the past to file complaints to the police against perpetrators."

He added that it will take time to assess whether the law will actually be applied by authorities.

Former Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is due to succeed Mansour after winning last month's presidential election. Mansour was declared the acting president after the ouster of Mohamed Morsy last July.

READ: Mob sex assaults on women overshadow Egyptian inauguration

READ: Is Egypt in the midst of a sexual harassment epidemic?

READ: Rapping for respect: Meet the 18-year-old singer standing up for women in Egypt

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 5:51 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province, experts say.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT