Mass harassment again in Egypt with governmental inaction

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Not many days pass before Egyptians wake up to a new shock from the traumas of mass harassment of a girl in a street or a certain region. Every time the debate about this phenomenon and fear of its spread is renewed. The latest facts were revealed by one of the surveillance cameras in the streets and a tweet of an Egyptian girl who called herself “Basant.” At the age of 23, she was subjected to collective sexual harassment and then threatened by the perpetrators.

The case of Basant, who is known as the Mit Ghamr girl, a city in the Dakahlia governorate in which the harassment occurred, turned into a public opinion issue, as social media users demanded support for her and punishment for the harassers. Basant said in her tweet that she had been subjected to collective harassment, and when she made a report, they threatened to kill her and set her on fire. She explained that they obtained her personal photos from her Instagram account. They have submitted a lawsuit and she has now been threatened with imprisonment because of these photos, even though she is the victim. Thousands of Twitter users interacted with Basant’s tweet.

Mit Ghamr’s girl

On the other hand, many attacked Basant and considered her responsible for what happened with her because of her indecent clothing, according to what they said, and a number of them launched a tag titled Youth Lost in Mit Ghamr because of a stray girl. Social media users launched a sharp attack on a lawyer accused of harassment after posting a video clip on Facebook attacking the girl and demanding that she drop the case.

Lawyer Hani Ubada published three video clips addressing the girl, indicating that her sexy clothes were the reason for her harassment. Others talked about the many cases of harassment, which preoccupy Egyptian public opinion, without reaching a solution to address this phenomenon.

Before the girl Basant’s incident, a clip was shown at the end of last September of a group of young men collectively harassing a girl in the street in Zahraa Madinat Nasr. According to the clip, the harassed girl holds an African country’s nationality, and seven individuals between the ages of 14 and 18 years old harassed her.

Last January, a state of great anger and shock prevailed in society after the spread of video clips on social media depicting mass sexual harassment of a girl in Mansoura on New Year’s Eve. The clips showed dozens of young men verbally and physically harassing the girl amid her screaming and a great stampede of people. The video also revealed the presence of many young men who rushed to surround her to protect her.

Seasons of harassment

Incidents of mass harassment in Egypt are linked to mass gatherings and holiday seasons, and among the most prominent of these incidents is the harassment and rape of a girl in a group in Tahrir Square in 2014. The incident occurred during the celebration of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s inauguration as President of Egypt after his military coup, after which many people demanded the need to confront the phenomenon, address it, and intensify legal penalties.

Activists believe that the security services’ preoccupation with chasing politicians and the absence of monitoring in the streets is why there have been widespread cases of sexual harassment against girls recently. Experts in women’s rights and those interested in sexual harassment confirm that the state was one of the most important causes of the phenomenon’s spread after it used harassment against activists and journalists in demonstrations and protests.

Human rights defender Nihad Abu al-Qumsan said that what happened in front of the Journalists Syndicate in 2005 was like a message to citizens indicating that women’s bodies are permissible in exchange for non-opposition or interference in governance affairs. The government had increased the penalty for sexual harassment so that the perpetrator was punished with imprisonment for no less than six months, and a fine of not less than EGP 3,000, and not more than EGP 5,000, or one of these two penalties. Experts believe that these sanctions are not sufficient, and the issue needs more in-depth solutions, especially since those who are subjected to harassment have not found a safe haven to submit their reports and resort to communication sites instead.