8 Jun 2014

Sex harassment now crime in Egypt

1:57 pm on 8 June 2014

Egypt has made the sexual harassment of women a crime for the first time. Men who harass women in public or private will face up to five years in prison.

in prison.

Women's rights activists say sexual harrassment and violence have reached epidemic proportions in the north African country.

The revolution of 2011 did not bring liberation for women.

The revolution of 2011 did not bring liberation for women. Photo: AFP

Surveys suggest almost all Egyptian women have experienced some form of harrassment - from verbal abuse to rape.

Wearing conservative Islamic dress makes little difference and the revolution of 2011, which saw the overthrow of leader Hosni Mubarak, did not bring liberation, the BBC reports.

Women were often attacked in the midst of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square. Activists say police are more likely to blame the victims than pursue the perpetrators.

The decree was issued by outgoing interim president Adly Mansour. Under the new laws, harassers face from six months to five years' jail. The longer sentences are reserved for offenders who hold a position of power over their victims such as being a woman's superior at work or being armed with a weapon.

Presidential spokesman Ehab Badawi said the decree defines a sexual harasser as a person seeking to achieve "an interest of a sexual nature". Repeat offenders would see their sentences doubled, he said.

As well as jail terms, offenders face fines of up to 5000 Egyptian pounds ($US714).

However, Fathi Farid, a founder of the "I Saw Harassment" campaign that documents assaults on women, said the new laws were "of no value" as they gave judges the right to choose between a fine or jail.

The punishments were not enough for cases involving sexual assaults by mobs, he said.