Egypt’s New Sexual Harassment Law: Too Little, Too Late?

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women reports that up to 94 percent of women in Egypt have experienced sexual harassment in many forms, from catcalls to assaults.

A decree released last week by Adly Mansour, the outgoing president of Egypt, outlaws sexual harassment. This law, an amendment to the previous penal code that imposed no punishments on offenders, imposes jail sentences of 6 months to five years and fines up to $700 for one offense.

More severe sentences apply when offenders repeat the crime, abuse positions of power, or use weapons to sexually harass others.

So far, Egyptian women have not expressed confidence in the efficacy of the new law. One student, Nora Tarek, pointed out that sexual harassment has become such a “normal” part of Egyptian culture that a simple law may not eradicate it.

Preceding the new law, there are several organizations and initiatives that confront sexual harassment head-on. These include:

• HarassMap, an organization devoted to rendering sexual harassment socially unacceptable
• Tahrir Bodyguard, who describe themselves as a “collective effort to promote the safety of women protesters”
• Egypt’s Girls are a Red Line, a 2012 awareness-raising campaign against harassment
Although the new law represents a step in the right direction towards the safety and dignity of Egyptian women, security forces have their work cut out for them in enforcing it. Additional training and awareness-raising will be required before Egypt can fully implement the decree.

In the United States, women benefit from much more comprehensive and more consistently enforced legislation that helps protect them from sexual harassment. Unfortunately, such incidents do still occur, often in the workplace.

Sexual harassment spans a wide range of offensive behaviors, such as:

• Unwelcome sexual advances
• Vulgar jokes or anecdotes
• Inappropriate and unwanted touching
These and other actions constitute harassment only when they continue after you have expressed your discomfort.

If you believe a coworker or supervisor has subjected you to sexual harassment, recourse is available to you under New York law. Experienced New York sexual harassment attorneys at Joseph & Kirshchenbaum can talk with you to determine the validity of your case and help you get the justice you deserve.

To set up your initial consultation, contact us today at (212) 688-5640.

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