"Women cause rape upon themselves" says Egyptian Human Rights Committee

Egypt's Shura Council is blaming women and 'Western values' for an increasing number of rapes within protests in Tahrir Square

by The Commentator on 11 February 2013 17:19

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Egypt's 'Shura Council Human Rights Committee' today addressed the recent wave of sexual harassment proliferating during mass protests, calling for specific places of protest for females in a move that is being interpreted as gender segregation.

Daily News Egypt reports that Reda Al-Hefnawy, Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) member said, “Women should not mingle with men during protests. How can the Ministry of Interior be tasked with protecting a lady who stands among a group of men?”

Adel Afifi, a prominent board member of the Salafi Party Al-Asala, apparently blamed women for the sexual harassment phenomenon. “A woman who joins protests among thugs and street inhabitants should protect herself before asking the Ministry of Interior to offer her protection,” Afifi said, adding that police officers are incapable of protecting themselves - hinting at a growing inability of the Egyptian regime to 'control' the protests.

“Women sometimes cause rape upon themselves through putting themselves in a position which makes them subject to rape,” Afifi said. He called for punishing the “children” who commit such acts even if their punishment breaches international conventions.

“The woman bears the offence when she chooses to protest in places filled with thugs,” said Salafi Al-Nour Party member Salah Abdel Salam.

“Some foreign-funded organisations are imposing Western beliefs upon us; tents present in some squares witness prostitution,” he said.

Committee head Ezz al-Din Al-Komy stated during the session that 24 acts of systematic rape cases have been observed in Tahrir Square recently. Al-Komy criticised state-owned and independent media outlets, accusing them of “putting the dragged protester Hamada Saber under the spotlights while ignoring the sexually assaulted girls”.

Issues surrounding sexual assault in Egypt came to the forefront of international reporting in 2011 when American journalist Lara Logan was sexually assaulted while reporting in the area.

“What came out of the Shura Council today is horrible,” said Sally Zohney, a women’s rights activist. “Those statements are inhumane, to say the least.”

Zohney stated she doesn’t expect the Shura Council, the current legislative authority, to issue a law banning sexual harassment. She said she saw no point in engaging in a hearing session with the council about sexual harassment, describing the hearing as “a waste of time”.

 ”The council knows quite well the problem of sexual harassment,” she said. “They won’t put themselves in any hassle coupled with issuing laws as long as a Peoples’ Assembly is expected to replace them soon.”

An international march condemning sexual harassment in Egypt is scheduled to take place worldwide on Tuesday. Protesters are expected to rally outside Egyptian embassies throughout the world, and in Egyptian squares nationwide. Zohney expected the protests to gain momentum as a result of the statements issued during the Shura Council’s session.

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