Sexual harassment is a widespread and serious problem in Egypt, as the country ranks second in the world after Afghanistan in terms of this issue. Also, the research “Study on Ways and Methods to Eliminate Sexual Harassment in Egypt” carried out by UN Women in 2013 revealed that over 99.3 % of Egyptian girls and women surveyed reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. According to the same study 82.6 percent of the total female respondents did not feel safe or secure in the street. The percentage increased to 86.5 percent with regard to safety and security in public transportation. Overwhelmingly, the study revealed that enactment and enforcement of a law addressing sexual harassment is perceived as the first step in addressing the problem. There is a persistent discrimination against and violation of the rights of women and girls, as patriarchy is pervading society.
On June 4th 2014, a new law was passed which criminalizes sexual harassment for the first time in modern Egyptian history. According to the law, verbal, physical, behavioral, phone and online sexual harassment attract a prison sentence of 6 months – 5 years, and up to LE 50,000 in fines.
There is a great need to offer sustainable solutions, and consequently, an increasing number of NGOs and youth initiatives have emerged on the scene and are involved in anti-harassment work. Enactment and enforcement of a law addressing sexual harassment is the first step in responding to the problem, however, going through long procedures in the legal system is not only costly, but also places high level of stress on the victim. Approaching the issue at university level is crucial in order to ensure faster procedures to investigate cases and punish perpetrators, thus providing adequate remedies and practical channels that victims of sexual harassment can resort to.
Through the joint program recently launched on Women’s empowerment in Egypt, UNFPA has launched an initiative aiming at the empowerment of women through addressing the issue of sexual harassment faced by women in Egyptian universities. The development of university policies and procedures on harassment is intended to strengthen institutional mechanisms to combat violence against women. In this regard, a university policy is currently being developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education. The project intends to create an official channel where incidents of sexual harassment will be reported and responded to by the educational institute in an adequate way.