Egypt: Sexual Assaults Punished with Long Prison Terms
Sunday, July 27, 2014 9:35 PM

Nine Egyptian men received prison sentences of 20 years to life for sexual assault, following intense criticism of the government’s failure to respond to escalating public violence and harassment of women. The men sentenced on July 16 were involved in four assaults, including a sexual assault that occurred in Tahrir Square during celebrations for the inauguration of new Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. A video of the assault was widely circulated online, causing public outrage over the incoming regime’s failure to bring the perpetrators to justice.

A 2013 UN study found nearly 100% of Egyptian women had suffered some form of harassment and abuse. Recently, a group of 25 women’s organizations led by Egyptian NGO, Nazra for Feminist Studies, recorded over 250 cases of mass sexual assault in public demonstrations during the period November 2012 to January 2014, with nine more recorded on June 8, 2014, during the presidential celebrations.

Women’s rights groups claim that Egyptian security forces have made no effort to educate officers on how to effectively combat sexual violence. Mr. Sisi himself was criticized in 2011 for defending the use of forced “virginity tests’” on female detainees to determine if they had been raped. The interim government recently amended the country’s criminal code to expand the definition of sexual harassment and increase penalties for perpetrators, although the changes did not address the more serious crimes of rape or sexual assault.

More efforts to change social attitudes are also key, says Dalia Abd el-Hameed, with the Egyptian NGO Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, because“[i]f something is criminalized by law, but society accepts it, it will continue happening.” 

Compiled from: Fahim, Kareem, Nine in Egypt Are Convicted in Sex Assaults, The New York Times (July 16, 2014); Egypt: New Criminal Penalties for Sexual Harassment as Violence Increases, (June 12, 2014).