A case of mass sexual assault on a female student at Cairo University on Monday has led to a storm of accusations on TV channels and social networking sites.
This alarming incident has also raised questions and concerns regarding Egyptian society’s toleration of sexual harassment and its apparent acceptance of physical assaults on women nationwide.
On Tuesday, women’s rights activists and anti-harassment volunteer groups began preparations for a protest outside Cairo University on Thursday, while the (state-controlled) National Council for Women called on the government to enforce stricter legislation criminalizing sexual harassment and assault.
A female law student was mobbed by a group of male students, groped and sexually assaulted, shortly after she entered the campus on Monday. The victim sought to escape from her attackers by hiding in the women’s bathroom, yet even then a gang of students surrounded her inside, awaiting her exit.
It was only after she was trapped inside the bathroom, apparently crying and in a state of great distress, that university security guards moved to disperse the assailants from around the bathroom and escorted the girl off campus.
Gaber Nassar, president of Cairo University, spoke with privately owned ONtv satellite channel on Monday, and claimed that such an incident of sexual “harassment” at the University is atypical and “exceptional.” He added that Cairo University is a respectable institution that upholds a respectable dress code.
Nassar contradicted himself, saying, “there is no justification for harassment,” yet he went on to imply that the student had brought this assault upon herself as a result of the tight clothing she was wearing.
He added that the student in question was wearing a black robe covering her body, but took it off after entering the campus. Amateur video footage shows the victim dressed in a long-sleeved pink sweater and black pants.
The incident was captured on camera and Nassar claimed the male students involved would be investigated. However, it isn’t clear what legal measures have actually been taken, as he added that lawyers were scrutinizing video footage to ascertain if a crime had taken place. Originally, the University denied the incident had occurred.
On Tuesday, TV presenter Tamer Amin went even further in his justification of the assault. His program “Min al-Akher” on the Rotana Egypt satellite channel came under fire following comments he made.
The renowned TV presenter criticized Cairo University’s statement regarding “the personal freedom of attire.”
Amin said, “Clothing is not a personal freedom unless it is worn at home or in private; not in places like public universities or schools. An employee cannot go to work dressed in their shorts, for example.”
The TV presenter went on to blame the victim even further by claiming that the female student in question was “dressed like a belly dancer.” Amin asked, “How was it that university guards allowed her to enter campus in such garb, which exposed more than it covered?”
Amin further justified the mob’s sexual assault by claiming that the “student was dressed like a slut,” and thus it was her attire which aroused, encouraged and instigated the assault against her.
On social networking site, Twitter, user Mohamed al-Khateeb wrote that harassment is not only a crime that happens in dark alleyways at night, it also happens on university campuses during the daytime.
A host of female Twitter users denounced Amin as “an animal,” while many others called on the Rotana Channel to sack him from his job for his sexist comments condoning harassment and assaults against women.
Many other Twitter users commented that harassment is rampant in Egypt because of unemployment, lack of affordable apartments and the general inability to afford marriage expenses.
Other users pointed out that sexual harassment and assaults are perpetrated by prepubescent boys and married men even though they do not suffer from the aforementioned problems.
Sexual harassment and assaults continue to plague Egypt’s streets on a daily basis — and, as mentioned on social networking sites — do not appear to be based solely on womens’ attire. Women wearing the head veil (hijab) or full face-veil (niqab) are often subjected to the same mistreatment and assaults as those who don’t.
According to a 2013 report by UN Women, 99.3 percent of women have said they have experienced sexual harassment or assault at some point in their lives.