Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1355, (3-9 August 2017)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1355, (3-9 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Prison for harassment

A Cairo tuk-tuk driver has been given a prison sentence after being found guilty of sexually harassing a woman, reports Reem Leila


The South Cairo Criminal Court in Helwan sentenced a tuk-tuk driver to five years in prison on 31 July for sexually harassing journalist Hend Abdel-Sattar while she was walking in the street.

Abdel-Sattar was walking in the street near her house in Helwan outside Cairo last year when a tuk-tuk driver tried to sexually harass her. Abdel-Sattar fought off the harasser, but took the number of the tuk-tuk and filed a report at the local police station.

The driver was then referred to the state prosecution for investigation, which in turn referred him for trial. At the time of the incident Abdel-Sattar was praised by the media for her courage as she did not shy away from reporting what had happened and insisted on her right to a full investigation.

Abdel-Sattar provided the police with a detailed description of the driver, who at first denied the incident but later confessed to what had happened. Abdel-Sattar said that “my family was pressuring me to give up the case, but I insisted on proceeding even though my parents were afraid the harasser might harm me.”

According to Abdel-Sattar, the harasser was going to get married just a few days after the incident. “But I insisted that he receive the punishment as a lesson to others and to encourage female victims to report such incidents to the police,” she said.

Tarek Al-Awadi, Abdel-Sattar’s lawyer, posted on his Facebook page that “the Cairo Criminal Court Chamber 233 has sentenced Abdel-Sattar’s attacker to five years in jail. The ruling is a reassuring message to all women that they have the right to walk safely in the streets.”

The ruling has also eased concerns that the authorities have not been doing enough to eliminate sexual harassment in Egypt. Maya Morsi, head of the National Council for Women (NCW), expressed her contentment at the verdict, adding that this was not the first time that such a ruling had been handed down.

“In July 2014, the same court sentenced seven of nine men accused of sexual harassment to life imprisonment,” Morsi said. The ruling was a “victory for women”, she said, adding that the NCW had a free hotline for women to report sexual harassment incidents.

According to a report issued by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 99.3 per cent of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment and 96.5 per cent have been sexually assaulted.

Nihad Abul-Qomsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR), an NGO, said the verdict should cause any man to refrain from such “disgusting acts” in future and “to think a million times before committing them”.

She said that sexual harassment had got worse in Egypt over the last few decades. “Many people say that up until the 1970s there was very little harassment in Egypt, but things are very different now,” she said.

According to the National Centre for Sociological and Criminological Research (NCSCR), 90 per cent of the offenders are jobless men. There are many contributing factors to the increase in sexual harassment, it said, with unemployment being one of them.

Salwa Al-Amri, a sociologist at the NCSCR who feels comfortable with the verdict, said that the huge financial cost of marriage and the fact that sex outside marriage was forbidden might also explain the behaviour.

“Men take out their frustration, and not just sexual, on women. Bullies who sexually harass women in the streets often take advantage of mob situations and the anonymity such situations provide,” Al-Amri said.

“Sexual harassment is a chronic issue, and verdicts like these can help to end it. Similar verdicts will help female victims to come forward with their complaints instead of feeling ashamed to face society,” she added.

Psychiatrist Mona Hammad said that the harassers were likely to be from a combination of personality types. “Some of them could be men with anti-social personalities who feel no sense of guilt for what they do. Others may feel hate or aggression towards women,” she said.

There were also those who may be adopting a “mob mentality”, Hammad said, losing their self-control as a result of being part of a crowd and so being less likely to follow normal social restrictions. This could lead them to engage in a level of violence they would not engage in if they were alone, she said.

“I salute Abdel-Sattar for her bravery in pursuing this case as some women who have been subjected to sexual violence may feel stigmatised and their reputations may be at risk if they speak out,” Hammad said.

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