Criminalizing harassment: Local initiative introduces new campaign
Harassmap press conference May 21 - Courtesy: Harassmap Facebook page

Harassmap launched the “A harasser is a criminal” campaign on Thursday to raise awareness about the legal ramifications of sexual harassment in Egypt.

The campaign specifically points to Article 306 of the Penal Code, which stipulates a penalty of six months to five years in prison for committing acts of harassment.

Harassmap was launched in 2010 in response to widespread sexual harassment across the country. One of its primary goals is to provide an online tool for women to document where they have been harassed, as well as to increase awareness of the subject in society at large.

The initiative has outreach programs in 22 governorates. In addition to conducting research, the organization attempts to raise awareness through media campaigns and volunteer work, as well as to provide access to services for people who have experienced sexual harassment.

Harassmap launched the new campaign at a press conference at the Goethe-Institut in downtown Cairo, in front of a black banner which declared in stark red letters, “A Harasser is a Criminal,” and underneath, “In words, In body language, In action” to make plain the different types of types of harassment.

The campaign has four stated goals: First, to stop tolerance of sexual harassment in any form, whether through words, body language or actions. The second is to make it known that sexual harassment is a crime and punishable by law. The third is to report sexual harassment to the police, and the fourth, to intervene whenever sexual harassment occurs.

Throughout the press conference, Harassmap’s speakers stressed the importance of reporting such crimes to the police — they asserted that the normalization of sexual harassment leads to underreporting.

However, the conference did not address the very real possibility that crimes of sexual harassment are often committed by the police and security officers themselves, as shown by a report released by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on Tuesday. The report stated that state-sponsored sexual violence surged after July 2013.

Katherine Booth, the director of the woman’s rights office at the FIDH, told Mada Masr of one such incident, in which a woman went to a police station to report sexual harassment and was then raped. After reporting the second rape, she was forced to undergo a virginity test.

The campaign will be promoted through radio and social media. In addition, a series of videos produced by Harassmap aiming to expand awareness that sexual harassment is a crime will air on television and will also be released online. One of the videos shows a woman reporting harassment on a bus and the harasser being arrested, ending with a narrator reading the article from the Penal Code defining sexual harassment as a crime. Another video shows a man following a woman to her car and a bystander intervening on her behalf, emphasizing that bystanders bear a responsibility to take action when they see harassment occurring.


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