Cairo: Eid marked by hundreds of sexual harassment incidents
A Cairo-based human rights group that monitors sexual harassment in Egypt has documented 447 incidents of verbal and physical sexual harassment in Cairo during the four days of the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday.
I Saw Harassment, which also works on raising awareness on the issue of sexual harassment in Egypt, said in its final report that two of the documented incidents involved police officers and conscripts harassing women during Eid celebrations.
"In both cases, the security men committed verbal harassment, and our team members spoke to them regarding their behaviour in an attempt to increase their awareness," the group's official coordinator Fathi Farid told local newspaper Daily News Egypt on Monday.
According to Farid, I Saw Harassment does not take measures against harassers, but can assist victims who wish to report incidents.
Farid meanwhile accused the authorities of focusing their crackdown on the group rather than on the perpetrators of sexual harassment.
The cases documented by the group's volunteers during Eid mostly took place in downtown areas known to be hotspots for public celebrations, such as Qasr Al-Nil Bridge, with a fair security presence.
|I Saw Harassment has documented 447 incidents of sexual harassment in Cairo during Eid al-Adha
"On one hand, teenage harassers are becoming more violent, which we noted when they assaulted our own team members," Farid said, explaining what he believes contributed to the increase of sexual harassment incidents.
This year, Farid also observed that male harassers were often accompanied by young women as they performed the mostly verbal sexual harassment.
"I believe this is a new way to manipulate laws," Farid said, as the law requires eyewitnesses in order for a sexual harassment case to go to court. "Maybe the harassers are accompanied by girls to counter any testimonies against them, if confronted by victims."
Egypt has one of the world's highest rates of sexual harassment.
In 2013, a UN report said that 99.3 percent of women in Egypt had been subjected to one form or another of sexual harassment.
In 2014, Egypt passed a law criminalising sexual harassment, with a fine of LE 3,000 to LE 5,000 ($419 to $700) and/or a jail sentence of no less than six months.
The law is rarely enforced, with a lack of specialised police and an over-riding fear among survivors of the social stigma associated with sexual harassment.
However, to combat the growing social phenomenon, Egypt's police increased the number of women officers on the streets and public transportation last July, during Eid al-Fitr, the three-day Muslim holiday that follows the holy month of Ramadan.
On the second day of Eid al-Fitr, I Saw Harassment reported a relative decline in the number of sexual harassment incidents, compared with the first day, which they attributed to the huge police presence.