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Sexual assault of 3-year-old exposes school, legal failures

The mother of a three-year-old boy raped by a 36-year-old security guard at a private school in Nasr City last month screamed for justice outside a police station after receiving news that the forensic report could take up to four months.

“They can’t see my psychological state or his,” the mother of little Ahmed argues, adding that he still suffers from spasms and refuses to let anyone touch him.

The case was brought to the attention of local media by Souad, Ahmed’s mother, in mid-April, after her son came home from school one day in pain. When she asked him what was wrong, he said a security guard had taken him and five other students to the roof of the school and sexually assaulted them.

Souad has been attempting to pursue legal justice for her son since the assault, but explains why this has been so difficult. Forensics obtained a sample from her son, but said they could take up to four months to issue a report, which usually takes closer to 15 days. Two other students from the school recognized the guard, one of who was among the group of five that were assaulted, Souad says.

The two girls identified the security guard to Egyptian authorities, describing their ordeal and reporting that Ahmed received the harshest treatment because he resisted the attack. The guard placed cockroaches on Ahmed’s body and violated him with a stick, they said.   

“Even if they want to delay the forensics report, there is still the testimony of the two girls,” Souad argues.

Head of the Egyptian Coalition for Children’s Rights, Hany Helal, says, “Egypt has one of the strongest laws to protect children.” But it is just “ink on paper.

The Egyptian Penal Code (Article 267) stipulates the maximum penalty of life in prison for the rape or sexual abuse of a child. If the offender is in a position of authority, the sentence is automatically life.

“Those entrusted with taking care of or protecting children, they get double the punishment,” Helal says. “Unfortunately, this is not often applied,” he adds, as the judges presiding over such cases are rarely aware of the details of Egypt’s Child Law.

Souad blames the school. She says Ahmed was missing from his class for 15 minutes without anyone noticing, or hearing his screams from the roof. She adds that his sister, who attended the same school, went looking for him, but that none of the teachers knew where he was.

Souad went to the school the next day, where the administration encouraged her to cover up the incident. “My target wasn’t the school, my target was the man who assaulted my son,” she says, adding that the reaction she received provoked her to speak up and go public with the incident.

Only one other family went public over the incident, despite five students — three boys and two girls — being assaulted. The case raised uproar among parents, with some pulling their children from the school. One such parent, Nariman Sorour says she was shocked at how negligent the school was.

Some parents allege the private security guard was caught sexually assaulting two students before and was suspended for a week before he was brought back again.

“I’m not calling for the school to be shut down, I’m calling for the punishment of those who violated our children’s rights, neglected them and caused this disaster to take place,” says Sorour, who adds that the Education Ministry should have taken action concerning the matter, as it has a duty to deal with neglect in public and private schools.

Sorour’s children have not completed the academic year, have already paid their tuition, and have missed the deadline for applying elsewhere. Despite this, she says she would rather keep them home than subject them to danger.

On April 12, the school issued a statement saying they were investigating the issue and had suspended the security guard. The statement warned against further publicizing the issue on social media until the full investigation has been completed and all the details are known.

Helal, who played a major role in amending the 1996 child law in 2008, holds the school responsible for not implementing child protection procedures adequately.

The case has raised awareness of sexual assault in schools. “This is the first time we’ve had positive movement from parents on protecting the rights of children,” Helal explains. He says there has been a marked increase in the number of sexual assaults reported in institutions dealing with children in recent years, even though he estimates the number of reported incidents to be less than 10 percent of all cases, due to social stigma.

A report issued by the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood in October 2014 recorded a surge in the sexual assault of children, According to the report, 370 children were subjected to various types of sexual abuse from 2011 to 2014, based on the Council’s hotline number (16000) and media center.

Helal blames the increase on low governmental interest in children’s rights and a lack of deterrents for perpetrators.

Passant Rabie