This week's Eid al-Adha holidays saw 727 cases of verbal and sexual harassment reported across Egypt, typically taking place in public gathering places, malls and movie theaters, beaches and squares, said security sources on Monday.
The “Seen Harassment” activist initiative spotted several cases in downtown Cairo, especially on Talaat Harb Street, and accused Prime Minister Hesham Qandil of failing to take necessary security measures to prevent such violations.
The initiative was launched earlier this month by six women's rights organizations against sexual harassment that provide free legal support for women who are exposed to harassment or physical violence.
In a report issued on Sunday, the initiative described three cases of harassment that took place in front of police officers who failed to react or intervene. The cases included a 17-year-old girl being harassed by a soldier near Qasr al-Nil Bridge; a young man in his twenties violently pulling a girl by her hair and kissing her; and a veiled girl being harassed while walking with her fiancé, all before the eyes of the police who did not interfere.
The report added that a female member of the initiative was harassed while recording an interview with a television channel in Talaat Harb Square.
The initiative criticized the manner the police deal with harassment complaints as improper and typically allowing offenders to get away with the abuse. The activists held the Interior Ministry responsible for protecting citizens.
Qandil said in a press statement last week that the government was working on a bill for more severe punishments for sexual harassment, which he described as a disastrous and strange phenomenon in Egyptian society.
Activists have long called for amending the Penal Code and to punish harassers, whether men or women, by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, and a fine not exceeding LE1 thousand.
Earlier this month women protested outside the presidential palace in Cairo, demanding President Mohamed Morsy issue sanctions against harassment.
According to a recent study published by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign visitors experienced one or various forms of harassment in Egypt.
*Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm