Egypt Independent

172 arrested on sexual harassment charges; still not enough, say activists

In the first two days of the Eid al-Adha

holiday, police have arrested 172 people on charges of sexual harassment and assault.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said that over these two days there were a reported 165 cases of verbal or physical harassment against women, with 87 of those cases reported in Cairo, 31 in Fayoum, 23 in Giza, 19 in Suez and five in Luxor.

Men were also arrested on charges related to six different cases of sexual assault in Cairo, and one case in Alexandria.

Already a persistent problem, sexual harassment becomes a particular concern during vacations and holidays, despite recent marches and campaigns advocating the right of women to walk safely in streets.

Activists who launched an initiative dubbed "I witnessed harassment" said in a report issued on Sunday that police efforts to fight acts of sexual harassment were not part of a clear plan developed by the Interior Ministry, but rather individual initiatives on the part of officers.

The report said the Interior Ministry has not been successful in training its forces on how to protect citizens from harassment and not resorting to physically attacking the perpetrators.

There have also been several incidents of sexual harassment reported where police were nearby, but did not intervene or arrest the attackers, the activists said.

The report pointed out that violence and harassment crimes against women and girls in Egypt is increasing. Most of these acts are perpetrated by boys between eight and 20 years old.

Days ahead of the Eid holidays, community-based initiatives against sexual harassment in crowded places were launched, and the government announced its intention to fight these acts.

Prime Minister Hesham Qandil said in a press statement on Sunday that the government was working on a bill for more severe punishments for sexual harassment, which he described as a disastrous and strange phenomenon in Egyptian society.

Activists have long called for amending the Penal Code and to punish harassers, whether men or women, by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, and a fine not exceeding LE1 thousand.

Earlier this month women protested outside the presidential palace in Cairo, demanding President Mohamed Morsy issue sanctions against harassment.

According to a recent study published by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign visitors experienced one or various forms of harassment in Egypt.