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Sexual assault on student sparks outrage in Egypt

CAIRO — A string of sexual assaults on women during celebrations of Egypt's presidential inauguration — including a mass attack on a 19-year-old student who was stripped in Cairo's Tahrir Square — prompted outrage Monday as a video emerged purportedly showing the teenager, bloodied and naked, surrounded by dozens of men.

Seven men were arrested in connection with the assault, and police were investigating 27 other complaints of sexual harassment against women during Sunday's rallies by tens of thousands of people celebrating Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's inauguration late into the night, security officials said.

Sexual violence has increasingly plagued large gatherings during the past three years of turmoil following the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and women's groups complained Monday that tough new laws have not done enough.

Twenty-nine women's rights groups released a joint statement accusing the government of failing to do enough to address the spiraling outbreak of mob attacks on women. The groups said they had documented more than 250 cases of "mass sexual rape and mass sexual assaults" from November 2012 to January 2014.

"Combatting that phenomena requires a comprehensive national strategy," said the statement signed by the groups.

Last week, authorities issued a decree declaring sexual harassment a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. The decree amended Egypt's laws on abuse, which did not criminalize sexual harassment and only vaguely referred to such offenses as "indecent assault."

Sexual harassment has been one of Egypt's enduring social ills, embedded in the country's patriarchal conservative culture, where women are seen as inferior to men. Movies often portray women as sex objects, leaving them vulnerable to men who feel empowered by the absence of a strong legal deterrent.

Sexual assaults have increased dramatically in ferocity and in number in the three years since Mubarak's ouster, with Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising, the site of multiple sexual attacks on women amid the large crowds.

In the latest incident, video footage posted on social media purportedly shows the student naked amid a crowd of men, parts of her body bloodied as policemen struggle to escort her out of Tahrir.

Seven men were arrested in connection with the attack on the student, who was hospitalized, officials said. They did not elaborate on her condition.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians celebrated Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s inauguration on Sunday.  

Tens of thousands of Egyptians celebrated Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s inauguration on Sunday. 

Sexual assault on student sparks outrage in Egypt 06/10/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 9, 2014 11:59pm]
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