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Egyptian MP demands 'castration' as penalty for sexual harassment

Egypt has one of the world's highest rates of sexual harassment [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 16 April, 2017

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Egyptian MP Zeinab Salem is proposing a bill to introduce "castration" as a tougher punishment for men convicted of sexual harassment more than once.
An Egyptian MP is calling for "castration" as a tougher punishment for men convicted of sexual harassment more than once.

"Sexual harassment has recently spread in an unacceptable manner that threatens the society," Zeinab Salem told Egyptian website Youm7.

Salem, who is currently discussing the legality of her bill with religious institutions and human rights organisations, argued that sexual harassers were rapists in the making, deterred only by the lack of opportunity.

"Do not talk to me about human rights," she said, "where are my rights when I am subjected to sexual harassment?"

In response to questions on what she suggests the penalty would be if a woman was convicted of sexual harassment, Salem said that women may "hit a man in a sensitive area as self defence", but would not sexually harass a man.

"I am 80 percent certain that the bill will be rejected," she said, "but I want everyone to see the truth."

Salem added that she was completely against justifying sexual harassment by blaming women for not dressing modestly, as this would "go against personal freedom".

Al-Azhar University, Egypt's top Islamic authority, agreed that tough penalties should be applied to sexual harassers, but completely rejected Salem's proposal, pointing out that Islam has prohibited castration.

A growing phenomenon

Egypt has one of the world's highest rates of sexual harassment.

Awareness of the prevalence of mob sexual harassment against women began increasing in 2006 after bloggers posted videos of mass assaults that took place over Eid holidays.

In 2013, a UN report said that 99.3 percent of women in Egypt had been subjected to one form or another of sexual harassment.

In 2014, Egypt passed a law criminalising sexual harassment, with a fine of LE 3,000 to LE 5,000 ($166 to $277) and/or a jail sentence of no less than six months.

In January, a parliamentary committee approved a draft bill pushing for tougher penalties than those in the existing law.

However, the law is rarely enforced, with a lack of specialised police and an over-riding fear among survivors of the social stigma associated with sexual harassment.

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