On Sunday, the Egyptian House of Representatives approved a legislative amendment that stipulates a toughening of the penalty for sexual harassment of women, to become “imprisonment for a period of no less than five years,” according to Egyptian media.
Under this amendment, the crime of harassment will be transformed from a misdemeanor to a felony, and the minimum penalty will be five years in prison, after the penalty until now was one year in prison or a fine.
The new amendment also stipulates that the penalty for sexual harassment will be a minimum of seven years’ imprisonment if the harassment is accompanied by carrying a weapon or committed by more than one person, or if the harasser has any occupational or other authority over the woman.
Numerous studies indicate that the vast majority of Egyptian women have experienced harassment at least once in their lives.
In recent years, there have also been some mass harassment incidents in crowded places, which sparked widespread anger and drew attention to the seriousness of the phenomenon of harassment.
Public debate about the problem escalated in the wake of the 2011 revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, with Tahrir Square its focus.
In February 2013, hundreds of women took to the streets with knives in a symbolic demonstration to protest the sexual violence they were subjected to in demonstrations against the former president, Mohamed Morsi.
Subsequent years of awareness campaigns changed the public mood towards the harassment that society, and the public authorities that are part of it, “consider it as a trivial matter and usually blame the woman,” according to what AFP quoted followers of the file as saying.