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Gender-based violence

What is violence against women and girls?

It is any act of gender-based violence (GBV) that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women and girls. This includes threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Victims of violence can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions among other risks. Violence against women and girls is one of the most common and widespread violations of human rights in Egypt, in the Arab region and worldwide.

Gender-Based Violence in Egypt

According to the Economic Cost of Gender-Based Violence Survey conducted in 2015 by UNFPA, the National Council for Women (NCW) and the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), around 7.8 million women suffer from all forms of violence yearly, whether perpetrated by a spouse/fiancé or individuals in her close circles or from strangers in public places. 

Other data available for domestic violence incidences are 2014 the Demographic Health Survey 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%).

In Egypt gender disparities are pronounced, the Gender Inequality Index of Egypt is 116 out of 189 countries as per the 2018 Human Development Report. 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. Egypt has a long way to go to fully achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 - gender equality.

The National Council for Women, 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 developed a national GBV Strategy comprising the role of each national relevant entity. UNFPA also provided additional support to NCW and the Ministry of Health and Population 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, anti-sexual harassment units were established in educational institutions across 23 governorates, including five newly-estbalished in 2019, offering informative sessions, reporting processes and documentation of incidents of violence against women on campus.

Programme overview:

In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development corroborated that securing reproductive health and rights and women’s empowerment is the obligation of every country and community.

It also recognized that reproductive health and rights and women’s empowerment are intertwined, and that both are necessary for the advancement of society.

Gender equality is therefore a precondition for securing the well-being and prosperity of all people.

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. Addressing changing social and raising awareness around the various forms of GBV.

UNFPA interventions:

UNFPA’s interventions in Egypt aim at furthering gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to provide prevention and protection for women and girls from all forms of GBV including addressing the physical, medical and emotional consequences of gender-based violence. To this end, our programmes focus on enhancing the capacity of relevant government entities, civil society, youth-led initiatives and community members to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, with particular attention to harmful practices affecting women and girls, including those affected by emergencies.

Since 2018, UNFPA coordinated the Essential Services Package (ESP) joint-program in Egypt in collaboration with 11 relevant ministries and key UN agencies (UNDP, UNODC, WHO and UN Women). The objective of this joint-program is to provide adapted guidelines on enhanced coordinated services for women and girls subjected to violence, in the legal, social and medical sectors.

Under its scope, over 20 national stakeholders (representing the National Council for Women and its local branches, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Solidarity, representatives of civil society entities, universities, UN agencies and local entities among others) collectively developed the first national referral pathway for women and girls subjected to violence. As the national coordinating body, 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.

Achievements:

  • Capacitating national stakeholders on international and national guidelines on GBV case management

UNFPA conducted training programs for key national stakeholders to enhance their skills in GBV case management. Through the GBV Coordination Unit established by UNFPA at the National Council for Women, UNFPA carried out capacity building workshops on international and national guidelines to address VAW cases for criminal justice practitioners (including public prosecutors and judges), medical service providers and forensic doctors from the National Forensic Authority.

UNFPA also worked on raising the awareness of medical students, doctors and heads of departments at Qasr El-Eini and Mansoura University hospitals. The sessions focused on analyzing most prevalent forms of VAWG in Egypt, existing services and role of medical professionals in providing prevention and protection to women and girls at risk.

  • Anti-Sexual Harassment Units established in 23 Public Universities nationwide

Operating anti-Sexual Harassment Units in educational institutions across 23 governorates, including five newly-estbalished in 2019, offering informative sessions, reporting processes and documentation of incidents of violence against women on campus. In addition, UNFPA through its partnership with NCW developed the first operational manual compiling good practices and procedures to establish such units in educational institutes in Egypt.

  • Coordinated interventions and reporting on the National strategy to combat violence against women (2015-2020)

UNFPA provided technical support to the National Council for Women to ensure coordinated implementation and reporting on the national Violence against Women Strategy. This includes coordinating between line ministries on their interventions under the “Protection Pillar”, capacitating 13 local task forces and Equal Opportunities Units on the national strategy reporting processes.

  • Launching the first Medical Response clinics in University Hospitals on GBV

UNFPA in partnership with NCW signed three protocols with Mansoura University Hospital, Ain Shams University Hospital and Assiut University Hospital to establish the first specialized medical response clinics for GBV cases. The clinics are expected to operate in 2020 to provide primary comprehensive services for women subjected to violence including primary psychological support, case management, and referral inside and outside the hospital for comprehensive services  

These clinics provide primary psychological support for survivors, including case management, r and documentation to required services in the hospital.

  • 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 made 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: https://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.  

UNFPA Partners:

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