Egypt recently enacted new amendments to laws that toughen the penalty for sexual harassment and bullying, a much-awaited move in a country whose capital, Cairo, was ranked “the world’s most dangerous city for women”.
The Egyptian parliament on Sunday, 12 November, approved new government-drafted amendments to the penal code, hardening penalties for sexual harassment and bullying crimes.
If a sexual harassment crime is committed against a woman at the workplace or in public transportation, the perpetrator is sentenced to no less than three years in prison and ordered to pay 300,000 Egyptian pounds (amounting to around US$9,700).
The jail term is increased from 5 years up to 10 years if the perpetrator has authority or is the guardian of the female victim.
An offender of a bullying offence is jailed to no less than a year in prison, and the penalty is doubled if the perpetrator has authority over the victim.
In 2020, Egypt enacted the first law that criminalises bullying in cases involving the showing of force or control by the offender or the abuse of a vulnerable victim.
Before Sunday’s amendments, a person proven guilty of sexual harassment would be sentenced from six months to five years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of no more than 50,000 Egyptian pounds (US$1,618).
“The two crimes go against human rights, representing a form of violence against women and children in the Egyptian society,” according to an explanatory note enclosed with the amendments.
Incidents of sexual harassment, whether verbal or physical, are common in Egypt. It was not until 2008 when a Cairo court sentenced a man to three years in prison in the first-ever verdict against sexual harassment of a woman in Egypt’s judicial history.
In recent years, women across Egypt have spoken out on social media about the subject as part of the #MeToo movement, as many went public and reported such atrocities.
In 2017, Cairo was ranked the world’s most dangerous megacity for women as per a London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation survey.
Statistically, around 7.8 million Egyptian women undergo a form of gender-based violence every year, according to a UN survey released in 2015.
Source: The New Arab