Egypt Independent

Sexual harassment bill promises harsher penalties

The Justice Ministry is preparing a draft law to counter sexual harassment in workplaces and domestic situations in accordance with international standards, according to a ministry official.

State-run Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted Omar al-Sherif, assistant justice minister for legislation, as saying that the main purpose of the law is to stop sexual harassment stemming from the exploitation of administrative authority or a certain position in the family.

The announcement comes amid increased media attention surrounding both the harassment and violent sexual assaults that have taken place during protests.

Giving examples of the types of harassment the law is meant to combat, Sherif cited threats made by a superior to punish his or her subordinates if they resist sexual advances, or instances in which a family member pressures or assaults a child.

He added that the law will define sexual harassment in clear terms and spell out the range of sentences handed out for the crime.

He also said that the punishment for sexual assault is rigorous imprisonment or execution, and that the sentences were made more harsh in 2012.

Prime Minister Hesham Qandil had said in October that the government was seeking a law to impose harsher penalties for harassment.

"We have to address harassment as a catastrophic phenomenon that threatens the society,” he said.

In February, Insurance and Social Affairs Minister Nagwa Khalil said Qandil asked the National Council for Women to quickly finish drafting a law to protect women from violence, which the council promised to present within a month.