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Victims of Tahrir Square sexual assault faced ‘indecent assault’: Forensics Authority

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Al-Sisi apologises to sexual assault victim and vows the state will not allow the crime to happen again

A handout picture released  by the Egyptian presidency on June 11, 2014, shows newly elected president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visiting a hospital where the victim of a sexual assault is receiving treatment. Egypt, which until this month had no specific law on sexual harassment, last week approved penalties for such offences to include jail terms, fines or both. Sisi has instructed the interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim to "implement the law firmly" to prevent sexual harassment. (AFP PHOTO / HO / EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY)

A handout picture released by the Egyptian presidency on June 11, 2014, shows newly elected president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visiting a hospital where the victim of a sexual assault is receiving treatment.
(AFP PHOTO / HO / EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY)

Seven women were subjected to “indecent assault” and not rape amid celebrations of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s inauguration in Tahrir Square on Sunday, said Forensics Authority spokesman Hisham Abdel Hameed.

Civil society organisations reported at least nine cases of sexual assault as people flocked to the iconic square to celebrate the inauguration of the former army general.

During a visit to a victim of sexual assault in hospital, Al-Sisi vowed that “as a state, we will not allow for this to happen again,” adding that “firm” measures will be adopted to face this phenomenon.

The Field Marshal apologised to the sexual assault victim and to “all Egyptian women” on state television, saying that “even a single case of assault is unacceptable.”

The prosecutor general’s office said in a statement on Monday it was investigating the aforementioned cases of sexual harassment. Abdel Hameed said the Forensics Authority was scheduled to examine an eighth victim of sexual assault on Wednesday. The forensic medical reports will be referred to the prosecution to help with the investigation.

Al-Sisi assigned Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb to form a ministerial committee to develop a strategy on facing sexual harassment, reported state television.

The Ministry of Interior said on Monday that it had arrested seven men in light of sexual harassment reports. Interior ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif said two cases of sexual harassment, not assault, were reported to the ministry from Tahrir Square.

Abdel Hameed said that the Forensics Authority also conducted a medical examination on another sexual assault victim in an incident which dates back to the official announcement of the presidential election results last week. The examination did not take place inside the Forensics Authority, but in Al-Helmeya Military Hospital where the victim was admitted.

The prosecutor general’s office said it was interrogating three suspects detained since Thursday for sexually assaulting a 42 year-old woman and her daughter in Tahrir Square. It added on Wednesday that it was also investigating media reports claiming that several governmental hospitals refused to take in the assault victim, what endangered her life.

Demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square on 3 June to celebrate Al-Sisi’s win, shortly after the official announcement of the elections’ results. The prosecution added that the aforementioned assault was repeatedly shared on social media on Monday.

A video documenting one case of sexual assault in Tahrir Square went viral on Sunday night. The video shows a woman being subjected to mass assault after she is stripped naked, with security personnel trying to drive the assailants away. The Daily News Egypt was unable to track the time the video was taken.

In its statement, the prosecution detailed the incident of sexual assault, saying that the 42 year-old victim was stripped naked and scalded with boiling water as the assailants repeatedly touched her. The Forensic Authority’s examination confirmed the “severe” burns and injuries sustained by the victim.

The three suspects are facing charges of forcible indecent assault, attempted rape, detention and torture, the prosecution said, adding that it is working on identifying the rest of the assailants.

The state-affiliated National Council for Women (NCW) condemned the aforementioned assault in a statement released on Monday, describing it as “barbaric”.

Presidential Spokesman Ihab Badawi said on Tuesday that Al-Sisi stressed to resigning Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim the importance of firmly applying the law to combating sexual harassment.

Twenty-five civil society organisations condemned the latest wave of sexual assault in Tahrir Square in a joint statement released on Monday. The organisations stressed that combating the phenomenon of sexual harassment needs an “integrated national strategy” and a “comprehensive” legislation.

Shortly before ceding power, former President Adly Mansour issued a law amending articles in the Penal Code establishing harsher punishment for sexual harassment.

The new law deals with harassment as a crime punishable by a minimum of six months in prison which could expand to five years, depending on its type. It also fines the harasser from EGP 3,000 to EGP 50,000.

Sexual assault amid large political demonstrations has become a recurring incident since the mob sexual assault CBS reporter Lara Logan faced on 11 February 2011 as Egyptians were celebrating the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square.

During the weeklong protests which preceded the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013, anti-harassment groups reported the occurrence of at least 101 cases of alleged sexual assault in Tahrir Square.

report issued by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in April 2013 revealed that an overwhelming majority of Egyptian women (99.3%) have experienced some sort of sexual harassment and 96.5% of women had been sexually assaulted.


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