Egypt: Epidemic of Sexual Violence Continues

Painting By: Salma El Tarzi

Joint Statement

16 Apr 2014

Sexual harassment and assault against women remain rife, our organisations warn in a report released today, constituting major obstacles to their participation in the political transition of their country. Successive governments have failed to take measures to stop violence against women and such crimes continue to meet with complete impunity.

The report entitled “Egypt: Keeping Women Out – Sexual Violence in the Public Sphere”, presents over 250 cases, which took place between November 2012 and January 2014, in which women protesters were sexually assaulted and in some cases raped, by mobs of men. “Not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice for these crimes. This climate of impunity contributes to their repetition and to social tolerance of violence against women” said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

Attacks in Tahrir Square represent the most visible manifestation of a long-standing systemic problem. Women in Egypt are subjected to daily sexual harassment and assault on the streets, on public transport and in the workplace.

At all levels of society, from the family to state institutions, survivors are blamed for “provoking” attacks. The shame and stigmatisation mean that most survivors do not report the crimes. When they do, complaints rarely lead to the opening of an investigation. Survivors say that police and prosecutors tend not to believe them or try to minimise the seriousness of the attack.

Measures taken by the government have been piecemeal. “Though we welcome the provision in the Constitution on protecting women from violence, the authorities have a long way to go to begin to tackle a phenomenon that has reached epidemic proportions. Comprehensive measures, taken in consultation with civil society, are needed not only to protect and promote the right of women to live free from violence, but to enable women to participate in defining Egypt’s future” said Mozn Hassan, Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies.

“Egypt has failed in its duty under international law to ensure effective investigations, prosecutions and sanction of perpetrators, whether they be state actors or civilians” declared Nevine Ebeid, Coordinator of the women and political participation program, New Woman Foundation.

“The link between pervasive violence and the structural discrimination against women enshrined in Egypt’s laws cannot be ignored. Addressing violence against women requires political will to bring about wide-ranging reforms to the justice system as well as to the status of women in law and practice”, added Farah Barqawi, co-founder of the Uprising of Women in the Arab world.