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Government committee puts forth plan to combat sexual harassment

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United Nations commends Egypt’s new legal measures against sexual harassment

The committee tasked with spearheading efforts to curb sexual harassment and assault convened on Thursday. (handout from the Cabinet)

The committee tasked with spearheading efforts to curb sexual harassment and assault convened on Thursday. (handout from the Cabinet)

The government will take 12 different actions to combat sexual harassment and assault, the committee tasked with confronting these announced Thursday.

The committee includes Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, the ministers of interior, education, social solidarity, and endowments, head of the National Council for Women (NCW) Mervat Al-Tallawy, and representatives from Al-Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Church. They met for the first time on Thursday.

In a statement following the meeting the committee said it would intensify security measures in public squares and crowded areas and seek to implement the sexual harassment law that was recently passed.

The interior ministry also expressed plans to assemble an “integrated security team” that would focus on curbing sexual harassment and assault and added that it would increase the number of personnel working in its human rights division in coordination with the NCW.

The committee added that it would call on the National Centre for Social and Criminal Research to closely document cases of harassment and violence against women in an effort to develop further strategies to confront them.

The Ministry of Education pledged to prepare studies and recommendations of education’s role in stopping sexual harassment and the committee said the government would “intensify awareness and media campaigns to uphold the positive value of respecting women”.

The committee also said it would intensify efforts to make citizens aware of a hotline set up by the NCW to file complaints of harassment. It also directed all hospitals and operating rooms under the Ministry of Health to give special attention to treating victims of sexual harassment or assault, and admit all cases.

On Wednesday the United Nations commended the new anti-sexual harassment law, which punishes harassers who verbally or physically engage in any obscene sign. Offenders are to serve a minimum of six months in prison and will be fined a minimum of EGP 3,000. The amendment also includes a punishment that is twice as severe in the case of repeat offenders.

“The UN calls upon authorities, civil society, and stakeholders to join forces and take a firm stand against all forms of gender based violence in Egypt,” read the statement, calling the new law “a major step towards achieving safety of Egyptian women and girls in public spaces.”

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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