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Egypt passes law shielding sex crime victims' identities

Egyptian protesters hold up placards and shout slogans during a demonstration in Cairo against sexual harassment on 12 February, 2013 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]
Egyptian protesters hold up placards and shout slogans during a demonstration in Cairo against sexual harassment on 12 February, 2013 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

Egypt’s parliament on Tuesday gave its final approval to a law protecting the identity of victims of sexual harassment and assault, aimed at encouraging women who fear social stigma to report such crimes.

The measure was proposed by the government after a rare public debate about sex crimes, which followed a social media campaign that led to the arrest of a suspected sex offender.

A new article added to the Criminal Procedure Law would ban investigative authorities from disclosing information about victims in such crimes, except to defendants or their lawyers. It will take effect once approved by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

“When we observed that there is a reluctance to report specific crimes… and that some of the victims feared for their reputation from being named in such crimes, the government submitted a bill to encourage citizens to report these crimes,” Justice Minister Omar Marwan told parliament on Sunday.

Last month the public prosecutor charged Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a university student, with indecent assault of at least three women. He had been the target of a campaign on Instagram from an account that included postings by women accusing him of sex crimes. He is being held pending investigation.

READ: Egypt suspends Islamic preacher who says women are harassed due to tight clothing

The case drew widespread attention from media, religious figures, and women’s groups.

Campaigners say a deep-rooted bias in the conservative, Muslim-majority nation means women often face more blame for behaviour deemed provocative than men face for sex crimes.

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