Egypt's Cabinet just passed, for the very first time, a specific law targeting sexual harassment...
If you are a reader of CairoScene, then surely you must have noticed that almost on a weekly basis a story emerges of yet another disgusting case of sexual harassment. For months the government has promised to do something about it, but as weeks passed and cases mounted it seemed Egypt would never get it together to address the matter in a serious fashion.
Finally, the Cabinet has proved that progress is possible without an elected president, when on Wednesday they approved a new anti-sexual harassment law, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic website. The amended law has been bouncing back and forth between the Justice Ministry and the government, and after over a month of revisions has finally been approved.
The new draft states that a sexual harasser is one who "accosts others in a public or private place through following or stalking them, using gestures or words or through modern means of communication or in any other means through actions that carry sexual or pornographic hints."
Under the new law, sexual harassers will be punished with a prison sentence, a fine or both. Incredibly, before the passing of this new law, the Egyptian penal code had no specific law proscribing sexual harassment.
According to an April 2013 report by the United Nations along with Egypt's Demographic Centre and the National Planning Institute, 99 percent of women surveyed have experienced some form of sexual harassment, ranging from minor cases to rape. For some this new law doesn't go far enough, for others it is a sign of progress, but when the number of victims is so high, then more needs to be done. Doing something is better than nothing, but is still far from solving the problem.