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Steps taken to combat sexual harassment and assault - Daily News Egypt

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Steps taken to combat sexual harassment and assault

Human Rights Watch calls for “concrete action” against sexual violence

A file picture taken on  December 14, 2012, shows an Egyptian activist drawing graffiti depicting a woman and reading in Arabic: "No to Sexual Harassement" on a wall outside the presidential palace in Cairo. A 2013 study by the United Nations said that more than 99 percent of Egyptian women had been subject to some form of sexual abuse.  (AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ)
A file picture taken on December 14, 2012, shows an Egyptian activist drawing graffiti depicting a woman and reading in Arabic: “No to Sexual Harassement” on a wall outside the presidential palace in Cairo. 

Thirteen accused of involvement in sexual violence last week have been referred to court, reported state-owned Al-Ahram on Saturday.

Security forces began a focused crackdown this week to combat sexual harassment and assault across Egypt. In the canal city of Port Said, 11 alleged harassers were taken into police custody on Saturday, according to state-owned Al-Ahram.

The Ministry of Interior also deployed personnel to Cairo’s metro stations as part of a security crackdown that included inspecting women-only carts and announced that it had cited 11 violations of men riding the carts as of early Saturday afternoon.

The government announced on Thursday that it would take 12 different actions to combat sexual harassment and assault.

The Ministry of Health has transferred a doctor and the director of the emergency room at Mounira Hospital for failing to treat a victim of severe sexual assault, announced the ministry on Friday.

The health ministry said that following investigations by minister Adel Adawy, it had decided to transfer a gynaecologist and suspend the director of the hospital’s emergency room and deduct 15 days of wages from both of their salaries.

The statement said that Mounira Hospital administered first aid to the victim, but then decided to transfer her to a private hospital to receive further treatment. The Ministry of Health added that as a result it would pay for all the medical expenses of the victim.

The ministry added that it had submitted its findings to the prosecutor general’s office as part of the ongoing investigations examining the wave of sexual violence in Tahrir Square last Sunday.

There were at least five reported cases of sexual assault amid celebrations in Cairo’s central square celebrating the inauguration of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The incidents were widely condemned and the president and Minister of Defence Sedki Sobhy visited one of the severely injured victims at the hospital earlier this week.

The committee includes Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, the ministers of interior, education, social solidarity, and endowments, head of the National Council for Women (NCW) Mervat Al-Tallawy, and representatives from Al-Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Church. They met for the first time on Thursday.

In a statement following the meeting the committee said it would intensify security measures in public squares and crowded areas and seek to implement the sexual harassment law that was recently passed.

The interior ministry also expressed plans to assemble an “integrated security team” that would focus on curbing sexual harassment and assault and added that it would increase the number of personnel working in its human rights division in coordination with the NCW.

The committee added that it would call on the National Centre for Social and Criminal Research to closely document cases of harassment and violence against women in an effort to develop further strategies to confront them.

The Ministry of Education pledged to prepare studies and recommendations of education’s role in stopping sexual harassment and the committee said the government would “intensify awareness and media campaigns to uphold the positive value of respecting women”.

The committee also said it would intensify efforts to make citizens aware of a hotline set up by the NCW to file complaints of harassment. It also directed all hospitals and operating rooms under the Ministry of Health to give special attention to treating victims of sexual harassment or assault, and admit all cases.

Also on Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Egyptian authorities to “act quickly to combat all forms of violence and harassment against women”, adding that “law reform should be central to the national strategy”.

On Wednesday the United Nations commended the new anti-sexual harassment law, which punishes harassers who verbally or physically engage in any obscene sign. Offenders are to serve a minimum of six months in prison and will be fined a minimum of EGP 3,000. The amendment also includes a punishment that is twice as severe in the case of repeat offenders.

“The UN calls upon authorities, civil society, and stakeholders to join forces and take a firm stand against all forms of gender based violence in Egypt,” read the statement, calling the new law “a major step towards achieving safety of Egyptian women and girls in public spaces”.

Sexual violence in Tahir Square also drew international ire from countries including the United States and France, the latter calling it “despicable”, welcoming commitments by the Egyptian government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Egyptian Embassy in Washington, DC had last week YouTube remove the video by order of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The request, according to a statement from the presidency, came by request of the victim who expressed her wish when Al-Sisi visited her at the hospital.

report issued by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in April 2013 revealed that an overwhelming majority of Egyptian women (99.3%) have experienced some sort of sexual harassment and 96.5% of women had been sexually assaulted.

Civil society organisations reported at least nine cases of sexual harassment and assault in downtown Cairo last Sunday when Al-Sisi supporters flocked to Tahrir Square to celebrate his inauguration. The government-run NCW condemned the attacks, describing them as “barbaric”, calling on the Ministry of Interior to begin immediate investigations.

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