National Council for Women proposes new punishments for sexual harassment

Egypt 2008national

CAIRO: A draft amendment to the Egyptian penal code proposed by the National Council for Women (NCW) introduces a fine for sexual harassment and a minimum of a five-year prison sentence for rape.

Proposed by Farkhonda Hassan, the secretary general of the NCW, the draft demands the addition of two clauses stipulating a maximum one-year jail sentence and no more than a LE 1,000 fine for anyone who commits a sexual harassment act by the coercion of subordinates with the aim of receiving sexual favors.

“The National Council for Women has the authority to give advice and suggest laws on issues concerning women, councilor Hassan El Badrawy, head of the legislative committee at the NCW, told Daily News Egypt.

“We will send our draft law to the Ministry of Justice for revision. The ministry will then send the final draft to cabinet for approval before it is debated at the People’s Assembly, he explained.

Currently, neither the penal code nor the special misdemeanors legislation criminalizes the phenomenon of sexual harassment.

The draft law defines sexual harassment as a criminal act, stating that it is “any action that aims at sexual stimulation without the consent of the harassed party either by touch, speech, phone calls, and written and verbal messages through cell phones or the internet, where the harassing party is in a stronger position.

It also requests the modification of Article 17 of the current penal code.

“Article 17 of the current law allows the judge to use his discretion to mitigate the punishment by two degrees. For example, if the offender is given a life sentence, the judge can change that to a regular prison sentence, El Badrawy said

“What we are calling for is for the leniency clause to only allow a one-degree decrease in the sentence with a minimum of five years in prison for harassers, he added.

According to El Badrawy, capital punishment for rape is only applied if accompanied by kidnapping; if it is not accompanied by kidnapping, the perpetrator receives a prison sentence that can be as short as six months.

A recent study conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) found that 48.4 percent of Egyptian and 51.4 percent of foreign women of all ages are subjected to sexual harassment.