CAIRO, Egypt - "The United Nations in Egypt has with deep concern been following the recent reports and statistics indicating the high prevalence of sexual harassment in Egypt. The UN calls upon authorities, civil society and stakeholders to join forces and take a firm stand against all forms of gender based violence in Egypt. The United Nations also encourages all measures be taken by the Egyptian authorities to ensure the enforcement of the newly adopted anti-sexual harassment law and that perpetrators of crimes such as the ones taking place in Tahrir square are held accountable.", states the UN Family in Egypt on the 11th of June, 2014.
Recent reports indicate an alarming increase in sexual harassment rates in Egypt with more than 90% of Egyptian females having been a victim of the harmful practice at least once.
Egyptian women have always played an integral role in many political and social occasions, but sexual harassment and gender based violence continue to be an obstacle towards gender equality and the fulfillment of the rights of women and girls. Escalating women rights violations in the recent years including the increased frequency of sexual violence aimed at thwarting women’s political engagement and active social participation, and presenting a threat to the safety and freedom of women and girls.
A Multi-Sectorial Approach is Required
UNFPA Egypt, in cooperation with local and international partners, including UN sister agencies, has been playing a central role in providing all needed assistance and support to the Egyptian authorities in combating sexual harassment and other forms of gender based violence in Egypt. Realizing that combating gender based violence requires a multi-sectorial approach that includes making data and evidence available, enacting legal frameworks as well as establishing and making accessible protection services to women, in addition to continuous awareness raising work aimed at changing conceptions towards gender based violence.
In that respect, UNFPA Egypt has identified gender based violence as one of its priorities in the Country programme 2014 – 2017. Among the areas to which UNFPA Egypt will support Government are: conducting and disseminating the “National survey on Gender Based Violence” to provide solid documentation and evidences on GBV considering the social, economic, and health related consequences; enacting a “National Gender Based Violence Strategy” to build an adequate Gender Based Violence protection and response structures, mechanisms and institutional capacities, as well as strengthening inter-sectoral coordination systems; and developing and implementing a “National Gender-Based Violence medical protocol and guidelines” to improve capacities of health personnel to provide appropriate health care services to Gender-based Violence victims, increase the efficiency of referral systems and the reporting on incidences of GBV in key governorates.
The Road Ahead
The wide scale rage in the Egyptian society in reaction to the recent sexual harassment incidents denouncing the violence against Egyptian women indicates that society perception has started to shift towards refusal to this form of gender based violence and that the society is starting to no longer tolerate any form of violence towards women and girls of Egypt.
UNFPA Egypt will continue its efforts to support and encourage legislative and social change, and the implementation of effective prevention and protection programs for the best interest of the women and girls of Egypt.