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Egypt suspends TV host for body shaming women despite Sisi's call for people to lose weight

Egyptian TV presenter Reham Saeed
Egyptian TV presenter Reham Saeed, 29 August 2019 [Reham Saeed/Facebook]

Egyptian TV presenter Reham Saeed has been banned from appearing on any media platform for one year after she body shamed women by saying "fat people are dead".

"You lose part of your femininity if you are fat," she added. "They are burdens on their families and on the state, and are an eyesore."

Social media users were outraged by her comments, including Lebanese TV host Rabia Zayyat, who said: "The words of this woman are full of bigotry, ignorance and untreatable disease. This is a dangerous example in the media."

After widespread backlash Reham announced via Instagram that she would be quitting, however this is not the first time Reham has been under fire for controversial comments. In 2015 she accused a woman of dressing indecently after she was slapped by a man who was sexually harassing her and shared photographs of her wearing a swimsuit.

After the government-run National Council for Women (NCW) filed a complaint against her, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation issued a decree banning her for 12 months for committing a "media crime by insulting Egyptian women" and violating "professional standards".

But the NCW has itself come under fire in the past for being ineffective at fighting sexual harassment against women. In 2018 Egyptian Streets revealed that 95 per cent of calls made to their sexual harassment hotline were ignored.

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In fact authorities are regularly criticised for their inaction on sexual harassment. In 2014 the government passed a law stipulating sexual harassment should be punishable by five years in prison, but it is rarely enforced.

Women who do speak out about sexual harassment are often penalised by authorities – in 2018 Amal Fathy was sentenced to prison after posting a video on Facebook calling out sexual harassment.

The decision to sack Reham will be seen as contradictory to those that remember President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's announcement last year that presenters and guests should not appear on TV shows if they are fat.

The president attempted to justify strict and deeply unpopular austerity measures being rolled out in the country by saying Egyptians should make more of an effort to lose weight.

In televised comments he said: "The second I walk into any place I look at things you cannot possibly imagine I would notice; and I ask myself 'what is this? Who are these people? Why are these people not looking after themselves?'"

He then turned to his prime minister and asked him not to put on weight.

There was an outcry against his comments, which people labelled fat shaming and an elitist approach to a poverty problem.

These are not isolated comments. Several years earlier Al-Sisi called on Egyptians to cut down on what they eat to save money. While his education minister has suggested students get off the metro two stops early and walk to exercise.

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