Egypt’s Sunni Islam religious authorities have decreed there is absolutely no justification for men sexually harassing women, a controversial move in a country where women are often blamed for the widespread problems they face.
In a statement, the leading Al-Azhar mosque blasted all forms of harassment as “a forbidden act and deviant behaviour” and said “the one who carries it out is a sinner”.
“Criminalising sexual harassment must be absolute and free from any condition or context,” the statement released Monday and seen by AFP said.
“Justifying sexual harassment with the behaviour or clothing of the woman is a misunderstanding, for sexual harassment is an assault on the woman and her freedom and dignity,” it said.
Last year it was revealed that the national capital Cairo is the world’s most dangerous megacity for women, and has become more perilous since the 2011 uprisings.
France 24 reports that Cairo came in last of 19 megacities for its ability to protect women from harassment and rape on its streets.
A study conducted by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights in 2008 found that 83 percent of women said they’d been sexually harassed, many of them daily, and 62 percent of men admitted to harassing women; advocates believe the percentage of women harassed is significantly higher.
The divisions were highlighted in 2017 when an Egyptian lawyer sparked outrage after telling a national television audience it is his “patriotic and national duty” to harass and rape young girls who wear revealing clothes including ripped jeans.
Nabih al-Wahsh said women wearing clothing should be punished. He warned:
Are you happy when you see a girl walking down the street with half of her behind showing? I say that when a girl walks about like that, it is a patriotic duty to sexually harass her and a national duty to rape her.
In February 2013, Egyptian women took to the streets brandishing knives in a symbolic protest against sexual violence.
Authorities directly criminalised sexual harassment in June 2014, days before President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s inauguration, however many women complain that officials still turn a blind eye to the problem.
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