13 February 2013

Egypt: Shura Council Reproached for Blaming Sexual Assault Victims

The Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR) condemned on Tuesday comments made by the Human Rights committee of the Shura Council (upper house of the parliament) about the recent increase of sexual violence and harassment targeting female protesters and activists.

Shura Members said on Monday that women taking part in protests and marches are inviting people to attack them verbally, physically and sexually.

"These statements are similar to the disgraceful position of Mubarak's regime when women activists were attacked in what is known as the Black Referendum Day, referring to the incident of organized sexual harassment of the opposition under the nose of the police in 2005," said a statement by ECWR.

The ECWR stressed that victims of sexual harassment and violence are not to blame. It added that it is the responsibility of the authorities and other protesters to do everything in their power to protect them.

ECWR considered the stance of the parliamentary members a crime in itself that they should be held accountable for, saying, "not only do they promote violence against women and legalize assault on them for their mere political participation, but they also accuse activists of causing rape upon themselves."

According to ECRW, these statements encourage impunity in crimes of harassment and violence against women.

Different initiatives and rights groups staged protests on Tuesday in Egypt and worldwide to condemn the remarks of the Shura Council and the government's attempts to restrict the right to protest and targeting protesters through repressive tactics.

"Women experienced systematic attacks at the hands of trained and organized militia trained, a crime under international law," said the statement.

The Egyptian Penal Code stipulates that "each indecent of assault by force or threat is punishable by hard labor of three to seven years," and in a different article it states that "kidnapping through deception or coercion of females is punishable by life imprisonment."

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