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Violence against women is endemic in Egypt; it must be challenged and stopped

February 17, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Egyptian women hold placards during a demonstration protesting violence against women in Egypt on 22 December 2015 [Amr Sayed/Apaimages]

The Observatory of Crimes of Violence against Women in Egypt, affiliated with the Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality, recorded 813 cases against women and girls during 2021, compared with 415 such violent crimes in 2020. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as has been reported by the organisation, which relied solely on data from Egyptian news sites and the Public Prosecutor. It is a fact that most violent crimes against women are not reported in Egyptian society.

Nevertheless, monitoring criminal activity to gather data is essential precisely because of the lack of official statistics in Egypt. We need to know the victims and the perpetrators if such violence is going to be challenged and stopped.

The organisation’s report covers 296 murders of women and girls; 78 cases of attempted murder; 54 rapes; and 74 beatings, including 49 beatings by family members. It also records 125 cases of sexual harassment and 100 female suicides. Most of the latter were due to violence, family problems, sexual extortion and abuse regarding academic achievement. Domestic abuse and violence topped the list of crimes, with 413 examples monitored last year. Of these cases, 30 per cent were against girls under the age of 18.

These indicators should ring alarm bells in Egyptian society. The government has to be more diligent and robust in dealing with crimes of violence against women and ensure that its statistical and research institutions monitor such crimes accurately, study and analyse them and propose suitable policies for reducing them.

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The government should also facilitate safe and confidential access to justice for victims. The law enforcement authorities in Egypt do not take appropriate measures to ensure the privacy and safety of survivors and witnesses of violence against women. For example, when a group of young men belonging to wealthy families were accused of raping a girl inside the Fairmont Hotel in 2014, the victim’s name was leaked and she was slandered in public. Moreover, six witnesses were arrested and also defamed. The security forces and Public Prosecutor were complicit in this, and the case against the perpetrators was damaged. This is why there is a reluctance to report such incidents; confidence in the legal system is at a low ebb.

The government must support survivors of violence by facilitating access to legal aid and providing them with medical and psychological care. Survivors also need safe houses and shelters, and support for their livelihoods and reintegration in society if we are to encourage more women to speak out about the violence to which they are subjected. Although the government in Cairo may argue that there is no finance available for any of these essentials, it is worth noting that violence against women costs countries up to 3.7 per cent of their GDP, more than double what most governments spend on education, for example. Money spent in this way will not be spent in vain.

At the same time, the government should launch a national campaign to change the kind of mindset and behaviour that encourages and condones violence against women. Ninety per cent of men in Egypt, for example, believe that wives should tolerate violence to keep the family together. In the meantime, women need to be educated about their legal rights — and men need to be told what they are as well — in the event that they are exposed to violence. Schools can take a lead in this, and ensure that all students, male and female alike, are aware of the damage that violence against women does to families and communities.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.