Cairo: Heavy security presence on Egypt’s busy streets during the Eid Al Fitr holiday when sexual harassment is usually high has deterred would-be offenders, authorities and volunteers said on Friday.
“Rates of harassment have dropped this Eid because of security deployment and deterrent penalties,” a source at the Interior Ministry said.
Police received around 120 complaints against harassment on the streets that were mostly verbal, the source added.
During the three-day holiday marking the end of Ramadan, security personnel including members of the recently created police department, Combat of Violence against Women, were deployed outside theatres and in shopping malls — a hot spot for harassers during this time.
At least 35 offenders — 10 in Cairo and 25 in the coastal city of Alexandria — were arrested during the first two days of the Eid, which started on Wednesday, local media reported.
“Security forces have tightened the noose on would-be harassers,” said Hossam Mokhtar, a volunteer in an anti-harassment campaign.
“My team has noticed that verbal harassment is the most rampant form of this unlawful practice. The situation this Eid is better than in the previous years.”
Egypt’s official Islamic body, Dar Al Ifta, this week came out in support of campaigns against sexual harassment.
“Use of violence to intimidate people, especially harassing women on the streets, is one of [the] cardinal sins,” the authority said in a statement. “This act comes only from persons who are psychologically unsound and controlled by mean desires.”
Sexual harassment has become a problem in Egypt in recent years.
A United Nations report released in 2013 found that 99.3 per cent of women in Egypt have experienced some form of sexual harassment. Conservative members of society usually blame women for the harassment.
In the past three years, Egyptian authorities and civil society groups have stepped up efforts to combat the offence. Under recent legal amendments, sexual harassment in Egypt is punishable by jail terms of up to 10 years.
In recent months, Egyptian courts have issued tough jail sentences in cases of sex assaults. The verdicts were delivered following a short number of hearings. Previously, such cases took long years before a ruling was delivered.