Egypt mulls harsher penalties for sexual abuse

Abu Dhabi: Egypt plans to toughen penalties for all forms of sexual abuse, with abusers facing up to seven years in jail and a maximum of 500,000 Egyptian pounds in fines, local media reported.

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The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives on Sunday approved a draft law, submitted by the Mostakbal Watan Party, which holds the majority in Parliament, calling for the amendment of the provisions of the Penal Code related to sexual harassment.

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The bill is scheduled to be put to a vote during a plenary session of Parliament.

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According to the proposed amendments, those found guilty of verbal sexual harassment in a private or public place will face up to four years in prison and a fine of between 100,000 pounds and 200,000 pounds).

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Verbal sexual harrassment

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Egypt’s penal code does not limit verbal sexual harassment to the offline world. Verbal sexual harassment is defined as occurring through stalking, using gestures or words or through modern means of communication (i.e. internet, mobile and more) or in any other means through actions that carry sexual or pornographic hints.

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In some cases, the penalty will be doubled if the offence is repeated. It may reach up to seven years in prison and a fine of no more than 500,000 Egyptian pounds if the harasser or offender had occupational, family, or educational authority over the victim, or exerted any pressure that circumstances allowed him to exercise on her, or if the crime was committed by two or more people, or if at least one of them has a gun.

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Currently, the maximum penalty for sexual harassment is up to one year in prison and a fine of no more than 10,000 Egyptian pounds.

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Last year, Egypt approved a new law to protect the identity of women who come forward to report sexual harassment or assault in a move that aimed to encourage women to report cases of sexual violence.

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The law, which will give victims the automatic right to anonymity, cames as hundreds of women have started to speak up on social media about sexual assault in a #MeToo movement in Egypt where women have long felt disadvantaged.

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It followed a widely-published case of a university student from a wealthy background who was arrested and accused of raping and blackmailing multiple women.

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The case triggered a #MeToo wave in Egypt with the National Council for Women saying it received 400 complaints mainly about violence against women within five days of the case being made public and hundreds of women started to share stories online.

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