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Between 91 and 200 incidents of reported sexual harassment documented during Eid holiday
Photograph: Virginie Nguyen
 

There is a wide variance among reports documenting the number of incidents of public sexual harassment against women during the four-day Eid holiday this year, with as few as 91 and as many as 200 having been reported across Egypt.

On its official webpage, the state-appointed National Council for Women (NCW) reported that it had collated 91 official complaints of sexual harassment in governorates across Egypt, specifying that each of the incidents involved verbal rather than physical harassment.

The NCW report was aggregated from complaints filed through its telephone hotline, incidents documented by its observers and lawyers and official reports filed at local police stations.

Among the cases highlighted in the report, seven occurred in Cairo’s Al-Azhar Park, 68 at the Giza Zoo, and another 16 in public spaces in the Qalyubiya Governorate. The NCW website has not published data for any other Egyptian governorate.

The sexual harassment campaign was carried out in coordination with the Interior Minister and municipal authorities. The NCW reported that police had been deployed to popularly frequented areas, including streets, squares, gardens and cinemas.

While the NCW claims that the number of incidents of sexual harassment has declined this Eid, it is unclear how accurate this assertion is. During the first day of Eid in 2015, the grassroots organization Shoft Taharosh (I Saw Harassment) documented 77 cases of sexual harassment in downtown Cairo. In addition, data pertaining to sexual harassment or assault is often subject to being skewed as many incidents are not officially reported by victims, who do not believe in the efficacy of reporting the incident and fear being stigmatized or blamed for the harassment or subject to further harassment by police officers.

Several local media outlets have reported a significantly higher number of incidents than the NCW.

The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm has reported that 150 incidents took place, while the privately owned Innfrad news portal writes that nearly 200 acts of sexual harassment occurred in the first three days of Eid, citing figures issued by the Interior Ministry.

The partisan Al-Wafd newspaper has reported, citing figures issued by a senior police chief in the Qalyubiya Governorate, that there were 69 incidents of sexual harassment in the first two days of the Eid holiday, more than four times larger than the figure reported by the NCW for Qalyubiya over a four-day period.

Ten men have been arrested in the Gharbiya Governorate city of Mahalla for verbally and physically harassing women, according to the local police chief who is cited in Innfrad. The men are being detained pending prosecution.

Following an alleged case of sexual harassment that occurred on Friday in the Beni Suef Governorate town of Beba, a woman’s brother stabbed two men that harassed her.

Local news outlets have reported that one of the men has died, while the other was seriously injured in the attack. The woman’s brother has been arrested and referred to prosecution.

Under Egypt’s penal code, sexual harassment is criminalized, carrying a penalty of a one-year prison sentence and a fine between LE200 and LE1,000.

The legal statute was amended by presidential decree 50/2014 to increase the range of the fine to between 3,000 and 5,000, while instituting a minimum mandatory prison sentence of no fewer than six months. The penalty is to be doubled in cases of repeat offenders, and the law outlines additional penalties for those are found to be in possession of a weapon while committing sexual harassment.

Despite the scores of incidents, the NCW and police officials have noted that the number of cases of coordinated group harrassment and assault has markedly fallen this year, particularly in downtown Cairo and other city centers.

Innfrad has indicated that the purported decline may be attributed to the increased police presence in densely populated urban centers, notably that of women’s police units.

However, sexual harassment remains prominent across Egypt. According to an estimate from 2013, attributed to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, approximately 99.3 percent of women in the country have been subject to verbal harassment or physical assault in public.

In addition to the work being done by the I Saw Harassment organization, the volunteer-based initiative Harassmap documents the location and time of incidents of harassment.

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