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Egypt Weighs Up Tougher Law to Target Harassment, Bullying

Egyptian MPs will begin discussing a draft law on Sunday that will introduce tougher penalties for assault, sexual harassment, and bullying.

The proposed legislation is aimed at crimes committed by individuals or groups in public or private places, workplaces, and on public transport.

Counsellor Ibrahim Al-Hunaidi, chairman of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee, told Arab News that the amendments include stricter penalties for targeting victims with sexual or pornographic remarks, suggestions or insinuations, whether by gesture, word, action, or through any form of electronic communication or other technical means.

Punishment will include imprisonment for between three and five years, as well as fines ranging from 200,000 pounds ($6,470) to 300,000 pounds.

Offenders will be subject to one of the two penalties or both, as deemed appropriate.

Al-Hunaidi also said the proposed amendments call for stricter penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace or on public transport. Offenders may face imprisonment for a minimum of seven years.

Bullying will be punished by imprisonment for a minimum of one year and a fine ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 pounds, he said.

“This penalty would apply, mainly, if the offense takes place in the workplace, on public or private transportation, or is committed by two or more people.”

Some MPs have expressed concerns about potential misuse of the new measures.

Sayed Hanafi said in private remarks that the law could lead to female employees being unjustly dismissed, creating a hostile work environment.

Hanafi suggested imprisonment between three to five years as the maximum penalty.

Shadia Khedira said he was concerned that the law might be used as a way of seeking revenge.

“For example, if there’s a misunderstanding between neighbors with children, someone could falsely claim sexual assault to imprison another.”

Khedira told Arab News that if penalties for harassment were increased, then “false accusers should also face consequences.”

Ihab Al-Tamawy said: “I believe the amendments are part of Egypt’s efforts to combat all forms of violence against women and achieve deterrence.

“If an accusation contains malice, the judiciary will investigate and make a decision.”

Al-Tamawy also said that the focus of the amendment is on harassment by multiple individuals, which puts added psychological pressure on the victim.

Source: Arab News