Al-Sharabeya Misdemeanour Court issued a swift verdict on Saturday, handing a year in prison to a man who was captured last Wednesday while taking a photo of a sleeping woman on a public bus.
Accused of sexual harassment under the newly-issued amendments to the Penal Code, the man was sentenced to a year’s labour and fined EGP 3,000, reported state-run Al-Ahram. The sentenced man was reportedly referred to prosecution after discovering several photos of girls on his phone, including photos of the woman he was seen photographing before his arrest.
Mostafa Mahmoud, lawyer at women’s rights group Nazra for Feminist Studies, commended Saturday’s verdict, describing it as “fair”. He added that the convicted man is also guilty of violating the female passenger’s privacy.
Shortly before ceding power, former President Adly Mansour issued a law amending articles in the Penal Code, establishing harsher punishment for sexual harassment.
The amended 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. The legislation expands the definition of sexual harassment, stretching it to include the use of sexual hints through “signs”, whether verbally or physically.
On Wednesday, a misdemeanour court sentenced two men charged with sexual harassment to six month’s labour.
The Heliopolis Misdemeanour Court is also trying two men accused of assaulting a policeman and harassing two women during celebrations of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s inauguration on 8 June.
Last week, the prosecutor general referred 13 sexual assault suspects to the urgent criminal court.
The trials and verdicts come amid a string of legal measures taken in regards to sexual harassment and assault.
Nationwide anger spiralled against reported cases of sexual assault in Tahrir Square after a video documenting one case of assault went viral two weeks ago. The video shows a woman being subjected to mass assault after she is stripped naked, with security personnel trying to drive the assailants away.
“We would have liked to see this attention, from the state, to sexual harassment issues a long time ago,” said Mahmoud, who believes that the state’s attention will wane along with the media’s focus on such cases.
Mahmoud said that cases of mass sexual assault, similar to those reported from Tahrir Square during Al-Sisi’s inauguration and investigated by the prosecution, were reported during protests in the iconic square in November 2012. The aforementioned cases, nevertheless, are yet to be referred to court.
The women’s rights lawyer also added that women’s rights groups have submitted a legal draft addressing violence against women over a year ago, noting that only one article of the draft has been enacted.
A report issued by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in April 2013 revealed an overwhelming majority of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment; as many as 99.3% of women have reported incidents of sexual harassment, while 96.5% had been sexually assaulted.