Egypt jails man for a year as push against sexual harassment begins


A Cairo court sentenced a man to one year in jail on Saturday for harassing a woman, the swiftest such ruling since Egypt introduced a new law in early June to combat sexual harassment.

Abdel Lattif Abdel Fattah, a 39-year-old electrician, was arrested only three days ago, judicial sources said. He was accused of taking pictures with his mobile telephone of a woman passenger on a public bus while she was sleeping.

Abdel Fattah was dragged to the nearest police station by other passengers on the bus, who also testified against him, the source said. He was sentenced to hard labour during his imprisonment and fined 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($420).

The incident came two weeks after a graphic video was posted on YouTube showing a naked woman with injuries on her hip being dragged through a large crowd towards an ambulance. It drew a massive public outcry and led further victims to come forward.

In response, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered the interior minister to fight sexual harassment and the U.S. urged his government to do whatever it takes to combat the issue.

Two men were sent to six months in jail for harassing women last Wednesday and seven others were arrested earlier this month for attacking women near Cairo’s Tahrir Square during Sisi’s inauguration celebrations on June 8.

Egypt issued a new law in early June that punishes sexual harassment with at least six months in jail or fines of at least 3,000 Egyptian pounds. Judicial sources said all the new arrests and charges were made under the new law.

Sexual assault has been common for a decade at large gatherings in Egypt, where half the 86 million population are poor and illiterate. It was rampant at protests during and after the 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Sexual harassment, high rates of female genital cutting and a surge in violence after the Arab Spring uprisings have made Egypt the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman, a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey showed late last year.