Cabinet to mull harsher sex assault penalties

The Cabinet announced plans to discuss a bill toughing sexual harassment laws Tuesday after a recent increase in sexual assaults, reported state-newspaper Al-Ahram.

The newspaper quoted Cabinet spokesperson Alaa al-Hadidi, who said Prime Minister Hesham Qandil was saddened by the rash of sexual violence against female protesters of late. Many of the victims were assaulted near Cairo’s Tahrir Square and surrounding areas over the last few weeks amid nationwide protests sparked by the second anniversary of the Egyptian uprising.

Hadidy added that Qandil was in talks with the National Council for Women to encourage victims of sexual violence to lodge official reports and prosecute their attackers.

Magda Adly, director of the al-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence and Torture, told Al-Masry Al-Youm Tuesday that some of the cases she has seen constitute as “war crimes,” according to the International Criminal Court, since victims had been attacked with blades and almost killed.

She accused President Mohamed Morsy’s government and the Interior Ministry of being behind what she called organized attacks targeting women. She said former leader Hosni Mubarak was known for using similar tactics to suppress women’s rights and political dissent as well.

The attackers are using sexual violence to punish women for participating in the revolution, Adly added.

Fathy Farid, coordinator of another anti-harassment initiative, also told Al-Masry Al-Youm on Tuesday that Islamist factions were hiring thugs to hurt women.

Farid said the government was guilty of condoning harassment and sexual assault since parliamentarians had postponed previous votes to create harsher sentences for harassers and ignored demands of several political parties and women's organization to do more to penalize offenders.

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