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Egypt's new sexual assault law could lead to victim blaming

According to the United Nations, an estimated 99.3 percent of women in Egypt have been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped.
By Aileen Graef Follow @AileenGraef Contact the Author   |   May 13, 2014 at 4:23 PM
CAIRO, May 13 (UPI) -- An Egyptian law, meant to address the rampant sexual assault in the country, has activists worried that it won't be enough to prevent sexual violence.

The new draft law provides a definition of sexual harassment and sexual assault -- a first for Egypt -- but includes requirements that could limit its ability to protect women.

Females who are sexually harassed or assaulted are required to have two witnesses, and in some cases, must bring their assailant or harasser to the police station.

The other issue lies in enforcement. According to a 2013 study put out by the United Nations, 40 percent of women in Egypt reported no one came to their aid when they were sexually harassed or assaulted in public.

"Amendments to the penal code are not enough to address the epidemic of sexual violence," a representative in Egypt with the International Federation for Human Rights, who asked to remain unnamed, told the WorldPost. "Comprehensive measures are required to reform the entire judicial system, including training of police officers, judges, prosecutors and forensics."

During the revolution of 2011, several women were raped in the crowds of Tahrir Square and security officials were pointed out among the perpetrators.

"There is a difference between sexual harassment and flirting," said Capt. Ahmed Mahmoud. "It's just an attempt to get to know you."

Lt. Col. Essam Ghaly, who serves in the wealthy neighborhood of Maadi, applauded the law saying he hoped for a time when women in Egypt could walk outside without fear.

"I remember a woman who was too shy to say how she was touched," he said. "We need this information. It's an issue that there aren't many women on the police force."

The new law is expected to be implemented in the coming months.

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