Gender-based violence

Violence against women and girls is one of the most systemic and widespread violations of human rights worldwide. It takes place in every country, in peacetime as well as in situations of conflict and crisis, and affects women and girls regardless of age, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. It takes many forms, from domestic and sexual violence, to harmful practices such as early marriage, Female genital Mutilation (FGM), trafficking, and multiple forms of femicide.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most systemic and widespread violations of human rights worldwide. It takes place in every country, in peacetime as well as in situations of conflict and crisis, and affects women and girls regardless of age, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. It takes many forms, from domestic and sexual violence, to harmful practices such as early marriage, Female genital Mutilation (FGM), trafficking, and multiple forms of femicide.

Gender-Based Violence in Egypt

In Egypt, according to the Demographic Household Survey from 2008 and other researches, a remarkable increase in recent years, with domestic violence, sexual harassment and FGM being the most common but grossly under-reported forms of violence. Repeated Tahrir square organized group rapes aimed at thwarting women’s political engagement and participation in demonstrations have proved that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a risk to human security and a potential destabilizing factor for communities and societies alike.

A number of articles on the commitment of the state to ensure gender equality and to protect Women and girls from all forms of GBV were adopted in the new constitution of 2014.

The National council for Women (NCW), with renewed energy, started to implement specific national policy actions to advance gender equality in the areas of gender responsive government programs and policies, decision making, economic empowerment, ending violence against women, and health and education and to enact and enforce legislations addressing sexual and gender based violence to protect women from violence and impose appropriate penalties for perpetrators of violence. To progress these goals, NCW is developing a national GBV Strategy comprising the role of each national relevant entity. UNFPA is providing additional support to NCW and the Ministry of Health and other relevant institutions to implement progressively a package of essential services (protection, health, counseling, and legal) for women and girls who are survivors of violence.

Critical importance has been given by the Government of Egypt, UN agencies, women’s machineries and CSOs to end violence against women and achieve peace, security and development goals. Relevant state institutions, women national machineries in Egypt, CSOs and activists are more committed than ever to raise awareness of the seriousness of GBV and its impact on Egypt, and to establish it firmly on the political agendas of the next parliament.

Sexual harassment

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.

Programme overview:

Women empowerment based on equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process is fundamental to achieve equality & sustainable development. Gender equality is, first and foremost, a human right. Therefore Domestic violence, harassment including sexual harassment and other form of assaults against women and their human integrity continue to be one of the most pervasive human rights violations in Egypt.

Therefore combating GBV necessitates a multi-sectorial approach where evidence is made available, legal frameworks as well as protection services are established and are accessible to women. In addition, continuous awareness raising work aimed at changing attitudes towards GBV is also required because in the end, for that matter UNFPA interventions to combat GBV are a four -tiered approach that aims at:

  1. Providing a reliable advocacy tool / solid documentation and collection of evidences on GBV
  2. Building pilot adequate GBV protection and response structures, mechanisms and capacities within relevant institutions that guarantee survivors justice
  3. Improving capacities of health personnel to provide adequate GBV services, increase the efficiency of referral systems and reporting on GBV incidences in target governorates
  4. Finally Addressing changing social and raising awareness around the various forms of GBV.

Egypt’s Situation:

In Egypt gender disparities are pronounced, the Gender Inequality Index of Egypt is 130 out of 187 countries as per 2014 Human Development Report, also 77 out of 88 countries on the gender empowerment and political participation. Despite all the substantial improvements in female literacy rates, enrolment rates, labor force participation and unemployment there remains a gender gap in favor of males. Illiteracy among women is almost twice as high as among men. However, Egypt still performs poorly on the achievement of MDG 3 ‘promote gender equality and the empowerment of women’

Regarding gender based violence, The most recent data available for domestic violence incidences are 2014 figures in which more than one-third (36%) of ever-married women between age (15-49) have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, also a 2013 Government study revealed that over 99.3% of Egyptian women and girls surveyed reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. The most commonly reported perpetrators are current husband (64%), but parents are also frequently listed (father/ step-father, 26%, mother/ step mother, 31%).

UNFPA GBV interventions:

GBV National Strategy: UNFPA supported the development of the GBV National Strategy to boost more coordinated efforts to respond to GBV among relevant ministries and partners and to work within a clear framework and action plan with established roles and outcomes. Also, the development and adoption of the national GBV medical protocol by the Ministry of Health and Population and its integration in health services, will lead to the enhancement of provided services, efficiency of referral networks and of reporting on GBV. These interventions should make quality GBV related services (health, psycho-social counselling, protection, etc.) available and accessible in all the governorates of Egypt by mid-2017.

Medical Protocol on the Management of Victims of Gender-Based Violence: http://egypt.unfpa.org/english/publication/aec5e87b-d76f-4cdf-b27d-a76e8359ffd8

The UNFPA supported National Gender Based Violence (GBV) survey: this survey will create a solid base for the intended GBV strategy and medical GBV case management guidelines. It assesses GBV prevalence rates, effects of GBV on women’s health and general wellbeing including the cost it places on society. This reliable evidence-based advocacy tool providing data and much needed diagnosis on status of GBV in Egypt will encourage decision- and policy-makers to undertake policy design and program delivery/implementation aimed at protection from GBV and bringing perpetrators to justice.  

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM):

Since 2008, UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, leads the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of FGM. The programme currently focuses on 17 African countries and also supports regional and global initiatives. In 2014, the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme launched a second phase, expanding its work to 17 countries. Also, among the activities UNFPA has been implementing in Egypt as part of the Joint Programme to help the elimination of the FGM practice in Egypt are the following: Policy law enforcement, changing the norms through (media, community engagement, youth & duty bearers).

UNFPA also collaborates with UN Women, UNDP, UNODC, UN Habitat and other agencies in the Joint program of “Safe Cities for Women and girls”. In addition, UNFPA partnered with UN Women and UNDP in the development of the GBV National Strategy development.

SIDA:

This programme to be implemented by UNDP, UN Women and UNFPA, it will help address the different multi-faceted challenges that are facing women and young girls in Egypt through supporting a number of initiatives targeting three pillars women empowerment including social (lack of awareness on social awareness, high illiteracy, unequal access to education), legal (limited access to justice) and economic empowerment (lack of awareness on economic rights, High rate of unemployment among women). The integrated programme will be working at both the grass root and policy levels with full engagement of civil society and the Egyptian Government. The Programme components are the following:

  • The abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) & empowerment of Egyptian families
  • Legal empowerment  and access to justice for Egyptian women
  • Economic empowerment of Egyptian women
  • Institutional and technical support women’s economic
  • Building and enhancing women coalitions and Civil Society Organizations
  • Promoting gender responsive services to enhance women citizenship rights in Egypt
  • Youth voice, leadership and civic engagement

This project started at January 2015 and will end by December 2016.

UNFPA Partners:

  • Ministry of International Cooperation (MIC)
  • National Population Council(NPC)
  • The Social Fund for Development (SFD)
  • Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS)