One detained, 5 released in mob sexual harassment incident in Zagazig
Courtesy: Melody Patry

Police detained a 17-year-old boy on Friday in Sharqiya’s Zagazig city after the victim of a mob sexual harassment incident identified him as one of the perpetrators. Five other suspects were released.

Sara, a 19-year-old woman had just left a friend’s wedding on Friday night when she was attacked by a boy on the street who attempted to strip off her dress. Soon after, dozens of other young men in the busy area either joined the harasser or observed the assault. The police had to fire shots into the air to break apart the crowd and reach Sara, reported Youm7 news portal.

Awareness of the prevalence of mob sexual harassment against women began increasing in 2006 after bloggers posted videos of mass assaults that took place over Eid holidays. Although a 2013 UN report found that 99.3 percent of women in Egypt were subjected to some form of harassment, women have struggled to report such incidents due to uncooperative policemen, lack of legislation criminalising harassment, victim blaming, and the social stigma surrounding speaking out.

It was not until the brutal mass sexual assault incidents in Tahrir square during protests in the years following the January 25 revolution, that the issue attracted the engagement and sympathy of the public and media.

In 2013 new units specialized in violence against women were introduced within some police stations, and became staples in stations across the country a year later.

An important legal breakthrough came in June 2014 with the introduction of legislation that explicitly criminalizes sexual harassment.

Following a long grassroots campaign with support from activists and community members, former interim President Adly Mansour issued a decree amending the penal code to introduce anti-sexual harassment articles. The amendments included provisions that provide stronger penalties for acts of sexual violence, as well as article 306B explicitly criminalising sexual harassment.

A similar incident had occurred to a female law student on Cairo University’s campus grounds two years ago. The student was mobbed, groped and sexually assaulted by a group of male students. Like Sara, she was blamed by the media because of her of attire.