Under the auspices of President Mohamed Morsi, the National Centre for Social and Criminal Research (NCSCR) held the first group discussion titled “Sexual harassment between law and social confrontation” on Monday.
The discussion is one of the initiative’s activities meant to support the rights and freedoms of Egyptian women that President Morsi had called for earlier in March.
“The initiative aims to support Egyptian women, respect their choices and preserve their accomplishments,” said NCSCR Director Nesreen El-Boghdady in her opening statement.
The centre specified six key issues that affect women in Egypt: sexual harassment, political, social and economic rights, the image of women in media and a suggestion to establish a national network of all NGOs working on women issues.
El-Boghdady said the centre will use tools like discussion groups, surveys, interviews and field research to study these issues, noting that the centre is a scientific authority rather than an executive one.
“The National Council for Women (NCW) should have been the one hosting this discussion, for it’s our main specialisation,” said Abeer Abo El-Ela, head of NCW’s media office.
She added that the NCW represents Egyptian women locally and internationally and that their leadership could have given the initiative more weight. The director of the social research department of the NCW represented the council in Monday’s discussion.
“These discussions are only for the sake of discussion or to come up with more ideas on women’s issues,” Abo El-Ela said.
The NCW was asked by the cabinet to prepare an anti-harassment law; the legislative committee of the council delivered it to the cabinet on 17 March.
Morsi had launched the initiative on 24 March to help improve the lives of Egyptian women in rural and urban areas and identify the challenges facing women in Egypt. On 26 March Morsi addressed the Arab League calling to designate 2013 as a special year for women; he invited the attendees to a conference on women’s rights later this year in Cairo.
The initiative was criticised by many women’s rights groups like Fouda Watch, who said the initiative was far from the “painful reality” of Egyptian women and accused the president of undermining women.