Geneva, 6 June 2014 – The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has welcomed a new Egyptian decree punishing sexual harassment as a first but crucial step to tackle the growing problem of violence against women and urged other countries to do more on the issue.
The decree, issued by the outgoing interim President Adly Mansour, makes sexual harassment a crime punishable by up to five years of imprisonment. Until now, there has been no specific law defining sexual harassment in Egypt.
Since the beginning of the street protests that forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down in 2011, sexual mob attacks on women have been frequent. According to a UN study, nine out of 10 Egyptian women have experienced some sort of sexual assault.
“Putting an end to violence against Egyptian women will require further commitment and action both to implement this decree and to put in place measures dealing with all types of gender based violence,” says IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson. “IPU urges Egypt to continue on this path to protect women from violence and inspire other countries to take much needed action.”
The Egyptian decree is a rare bit of positive news in what has been a horrifying few weeks for women’s rights around the world.
The rape and murder of two girls last week found hanging on a tree in an Indian village, the sentencing to death by stoning of Sudanese woman Meriam Ibrahim for marrying a Christian, the so-called honour killings and attacks on women in Pakistan and the abduction of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls are the latest in a running series of horrific crimes against women and girls both in these countries and worldwide.
“These shocking attacks and killings of women and girls underscore the urgent need for concerted legislation and action globally. There is no country or society that is not affected by such kind of violence and we know that legislation is a critical first step in changing mentalities and behaviour,” adds Johnsson. “There can be no excuse for inaction or poor leadership on addressing this effectively.”
IPU Members, who endorsed an IPU presidential statement on sexual violence against women in 2013, are being urged to dramatically step up their efforts to put effective legislation into place and ensure its implementation.
The 131st IPU Assembly in October in Geneva will focus on violence against women, reflecting the Organization’s move to make the issue one of its priorities. The IPU Assembly will also host the World Future Policy Awards for 2014 for the most effective policies to end violence against women.