Draft anti-sexual harassment law presented to Egyptian parliament

For months I’ve read how Egyptian activists and lawmakers have been working on a new law against sexual harassment (including on the streets and other public places) and this week it was finally introduced.

“A draft of the law presented to the parliament’s legislative committee on Monday recommended that punishment should be at least one year in prison and or a fine of 1,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh666). The legislation is based on a 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) that found 83 per cent of Egyptian women and 98 per cent of foreign women had been sexually harassed, usually on the street or on public transport. A large number of men – 62 per cent – even admitted to being or having been perpetrators of sexual harassment….

‘We need to redefine the meaning of sexual harassment, which is lacking in Egypt’s current criminal code, and include sexual harassment in the workplace – not only in public places – and transportation, and mobile and internet sexual harassment as well,’ said Mohammed Khalil Qoueita, the deputy of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, who is behind the new law.

There is no current law that mentions or defines sexual harassment, while a colonial-era law from 1937 speaks vaguely of violation of honour and morals.

‘One of the reasons sexual harassment is widespread is that there is no deterrent law against those who do it,’ Mr Qoueita said. ‘We need to create a culture of women having the courage to go to police when they are sexually harassed.’ In that way, women can regain respect and fight against a culture in which men look down on them.”

I hope it passes, though I wonder if the year in prison punishment is harsh enough that women will be too worried to report harassers? Thoughts? What would be a fair punishment?

I wonder what would happen in the US if there was a similar study to the one the ECWR’s conducted? Or even if each state conducted one? Studies about harassment on public transportation in Chicago and New York City have led to policy changes, so I think there’s a good chance that such studies could make a difference.

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