A man accused of sexually harassing two women over the Eid al-Adha holiday was sentenced to two years in prison by the Qasr al-Nile Misdemeanor Court on Sunday, while his brother was acquitted of the same charges.
Gehad al-Rawy, one of the women who was harassed, told Mada Masr that they too were detained after the incident, and criticized the process of reporting cases of sexual harassment.
In the Sunday ruling, the court decided that Rawy and Rosana Nageh will receive LE20,000 in compensation for the harm done to them. The man convicted of harassment was handed an additional three-month sentence and LE2,000 fine on charges of physical assault, and a LE10,000 fine for verbal assault.
On August 21, the first day of Eid, the two men sexually harassed Nageh and Rawy while they were in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Rawy told Mada Masr. She added that when they attempted to confront their harassers, the men physically and verbally assaulted them, garnering solidarity from passersby who tried to stop the women from reporting the incident to the police.
Eventually, police personnel in the area intervened and took all four individuals to the Qasr al-Nile Police Station. While Rawy and Nageh filed a complaint accusing the men of sexual harassment, they in turn filed a complaint accusing the women of physical and verbal assault.
Police held all four in detention until an order to refer the case to the prosecution was issued in the early hours of August 22.
The women were both held in custody until early that morning, and police refused to release them until their lawyer pledged to personally bring them before the prosecution, Rawy told Mada Masr.
Prosecutors interrogated the women twice, once as plaintiffs and once as defendants. According to Rawy, the families of the two men tried to convince the women to drop the charges in exchange for them dropping the physical and verbal assault charges. However, they decided to pursue the case, she told Mada Masr.
Ten hours after they were brought before the prosecution, the women were released pending further investigation, as the police interrogations backed their testimonies. The two men were referred to court, and prosecutors did not pursue the charges filed against Rawy and Nageh. The first session in the case was held on August 28, with the sentence being issued against one of the defendants in the second session, held on Sunday.
Rawy criticized the protocols in place at police stations for dealing with incidents of sexual harassment, telling Mada Masr that the men’s relatives were permitted to speak with and place pressure on the women while they were at the station.
“The police station staff themselves treated us as if we were the problem,” she said, adding that “some of them harassed us verbally and stared at us, and we had to give our testimonies almost 10 times to different people, which was a psychological burden.”
Rawy told Mada Masr that she feels unable to advise women to file legal complaints about incidents of sexual harassment, due to this incident and two similar, previous experiences that ended badly due to a lack of witnesses.
“I felt relieved after being released from the prosecution,” she said, explaining that she felt she had been subjected to violence twice: once in the street, and then by the police and prosecutors. Rawy added that while she is happy that one of the men has been sentenced, and feels she has regained her dignity after the incident, she still feels Egypt’s sexual harassment law is implemented subjectively.
“Despite the anti-harassment law and the efforts directed toward confronting violence against women, we are still in the same place,” she told Mada Masr.
Egypt’s Penal Code lists sexual harassment as a criminal act, and following amendments brought in with Presidential Decree 50/2014, it stipulates a minimum six-month sentence and/or a fine of LE3,000-5,000. The penalty may 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.