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Sexual harassment victim: Slow judicial processes lead to repeated attacks
Tuesday, December 17, 2013 2:29 PM
 

An anti-harassment poster from Facebook
By Omnia Talal
CAIRO, Dec 17 (Aswat Masriya) When Yasmine El Baramawy went to Tahrir Square last year to call for “bread, freedom and dignity,” she did not imagine that she would be sexually assaulted and that her personal tragedy would turn into a judicial nightmare that lasts months.
Baramawy, 27, experienced a group assault in the iconic square on the second anniversary of the January 25 uprising that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
“My case was filed to the prosecution 10 months ago without any progress to date,” Baramawy told Aswat Masriya.
She explained that even though the prosecutor listened to her account of the assault and the accounts of eyewitnesses and received footage and photographs related to the case, the attackers have not yet been captured.
Baramawy added that seven other women filed lawsuits related to sexual assaults at about the same time and the prosecution has not yet heard their testimonies.
She insisted that most of the assaults take place in a systematic manner in an attempt to prevent female activists from participating in political life, explaining that harassers form closed circles around their victims after picking them as targets.
Despite the glimpse of hope that surfaced last week when a man was sentenced to a year in prison for verbally harassing a college student as she walked down the street, many similar cases are left unsolved.
Baramawy believes that the slow judicial pace has helped lead to repeated attacks of this kind, like seen during the wave of demonstrations that occured late June, despite the presence of policemen in the square.
An initiative that goes by the name Shoft Taharosh (I Saw Harassment) said that 186 cases of harassment took place from June 30 to July 3 while a UN Women study said that in 2013, 99.3% of women in Egypt were exposed to sexual harassment and assaults.
Ahmed Abul Magd from the “Our Right” initiative said that Egypt needs legislation that criminalizes all types of harassment, whether verbal or otherwise, explaining that the Criminal Code only includes rape but not harassment.
“We need a law that identifies harassment in all its shapes and criminalizes it,” Abul Magd said.
Shoft Taharosh urged the government in October to swiftly negotiate with women’s rights groups to introduce a law to confront sexual harassment and protect its victims.
Michael Raouf from the Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence said that evidences become weaker as trials drag on for a long period of time, especially because eyewitnesses forget the details useful to the investigations.
Raouf explained the difference between crimes of rape, where evidence is accessible, and harassment cases, which are either difficult to prove or their perpetrators cannot be identified.
“Unfortunately, we still have a problem, starting with the [lack of] sympathy of eyewitnesses to filing records of harassment,” he said, adding that in many cases policemen do not sympathize with the victims and instead accuse them of dressing inappropriately.
According to Mostafa Mahmoud from Nazra for Feminist Studies, most of the sexual harassment cases are put aside due to lack of eyewitnesses and evidence or failure to file the complaints in a manner that protects the rights of the victims.
He explained that cases of sexual harassment and assaults have increased dramatically in demonstrations regardless of the political circumstances.
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