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Recent rape case highlights role of national referral pathway

When testimonies started mounting through an Instagram account against a university graduate accusing him of rape, sexual harassment and other forms of assault, it became clear that all relevant national entities needed to step in.

With over 100 anonymous testimonies against Ahmed Bassam Zaki, the National Council for women issued a statement calling on women and girls to come forward and file official complaints against him.

Shortly after, the Public Prosecutor ordered his detention, eventually referring him to criminal court on charges of statutory rape, sexual harassment, blackmail and extortion, following investigations and his confessions to the crimes reported.

The case highlighted the role of the recently endorsed GBV coordination body and national referral pathway for women and girls subjected to violence. The first of its kind, the referral pathway was developed under the Essential Services Package (ESP) joint-program in Egypt, coordinated by UNFPA in Egypt. The ESP modules were adapted to national context and endorsed by relevant ministries and key UN agencies (UNDP, UNODC, WHO and UN Women), to coordinate between relevant stakeholders on GBV protection, prevention and care in the legal, social and medical sectors.

Since 2018, UNFPA has supported the establishment of a National Coordination Unit to monitor the effective implementation of various interventions under the National Women’s Empowerment Strategy 2030 focusing on the Protection Pillar from all forms of violence against women and the national Violence Against Women Strategy. The National Council for Women officially adopted the referral pathway in November 2019 marking the establishment of the first national process to develop and ensure the quality and efficiency of services for women and girls subjected to violence.

The Coordination Unit played an important role in ensuring the coordination between relevant government entities in the investigation process, including providing regular legal expertise and support to the women who came forward with their testimonies.

“Because the referral pathway is endorsed and fully functioning, we didn’t have to start from scratch and we had a head start on who to contact and when,” Sally Zohney, UNFPA Gender Program Specialist, said. “If each entity was working individually, they wouldn’t have achieved this result.”