Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim issued a decision on Saturday to create a violence-against-women department within the ministry.
The department would be part of the human rights sector within the Interior Ministry. Police officers competent in the field of women’s issues would be chosen for the new department, reported state-owned news agency MENA.
Mohamed Al-Meleigy, the office head of the deputy minister of interior for human rights, said the establishment of the department was instigated by the country’s growing sexual harassment phenomenon.
“The ministry is an indivisible part of society,” Al-Meleigy said. “We cannot react to the proliferating sexual harassment the society is currently facing.”
Al-Meleigy stated that the department’s responsibility is to receive harassment and rape victims and not delegate officers to arrest the perpetrators; the latter being the job of different departments within the ministry. He added that the department would also be responsible for raising cultural awareness regarding harassment through organising meeting and seminars.
The department is to begin working officially on Wednesday through a scheduled meeting with National Council for Women (NCW) head Mervat Al-Tellawi. Al-Tellawi welcomed on Sunday the establishment of the new department, considering it a primary step towards facing the proliferating phenomenon of violence against women.
Veronica Benjamin, a member of the I Saw Harassment campaign, doubted the sincerity of the new department. “In Egypt’s culture, especially in Upper Egypt, a woman who reports the sexual harassment she has been subjected to is frowned upon and considered immodest,” Benjamin said.
She stated that women who enter police stations are usually harassed by police officers, even if only verbally. “The ministry is fooling us by this department just to pretend they’re against sexual harassment,” she said.
The new department would appoint female as well as male officers to establish proper mechanisms for dealing with violence against women.
Benjamin doubted that even female officers would sympathise with sexual harassment victims. “Female officers chosen by the Brotherhood’s government would probably blame the victim for her dress,” she said.
“During Mohamed Morsi’s presidency, no sexual harassment victim would get legal redress,” Benjamin said.
The new department was announced during an experts’ meeting to draft the final recommendations to put an end to the problem of violence against women, reported MENA. The meeting was held by the presidency, presided by the president’s advisor on women, Omayma Kamel, in the presence of representatives from the ministries of justice, interior and the National Centre for Social and Criminal Research.
The Ministry of Interior representative, Rady Abdel Moety, said the department was established to meet the persistent demand the ministry observed while taking part in workshops organised as part of President Morsi’s initiative to support women’s rights and freedoms.
Reports of sexual harassment against women have proliferated during mass protests. Egypt has also witnessed mass assaults on female protesters, and in some cases gang rape. Addressing the phenomenon of sexual harassment in Egypt, some members of parliament have been quoted as blaming the victims, rather than the perpetrators.