Will Egypt’s Criminalization Of Sexual Harassment Matter?

June, 6, 2014: An overview of the state of harassment against women in Egypt.

Egypt has criminalized sexual harassment for the first time in history.

The country’s outgoing president, Adly Mansour, decreed that sexual harassment is a crime punishable by a minimum six-month prison term and a fine worth 3,000 Egyptian pounds.  

The law states that there will be harsher penalties for repeat offenders and harassers with a position of authority over the victims, for instance employers, uniformed personnel, or armed individuals. The law defines harassment as any sexual suggestion or hint through words, signs or acts.

Although it is a commendable act, Egypt – which has been described as the worst Arab country for women – needs to accomplish a lot more in terms of ending this horrific practice.

Sexual Harassment In Egypt

The reports of the state of sexual harassment in Egypt are baffling and the accounts of the female victims harrowing. According to a 2013 UN report, 99.3% of Egyptian women had experienced sexual harassment. Even more depressing, than the act of harassment itself, is the disgusting tradition of victim-blaming.

There were numerous instances amidst the protests at Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring. A Dutch woman, who was brutally raped by a group of five men, had to undergo surgery for the injuries sustained in the attack. These are only a few examples of the abominable treatment of women in the country.

Recommended: It’s Shocking How This Woman Was Treated By Egyptian Men At A Cairo University

The First Step In The Right Direction?

The legislation against sexual harassment, admirable though it is, will only address the problem on a surface level. Addressing the issue on a deeper level requires more than a presidential decree. It would require the political will of the government and, more importantly, a change in the attitude of the law enforcing agencies.