A committee of Egyptian parliamentarians has approved a draft law to protect the anonymity of victims of sexual assault and harassment.
Rabat – In response to a growing Egyptian “MeToo” movement, a parliamentarian committee in Egypt has approved a draft law intended to protect the identity of sexual assault survivors.
The law, on which Parliament will vote in the coming weeks, comes in response to a growing online movement in support of sexual assault survivors and women accused of violating morality laws.
Egyptian society is increasingly being consumed by a public collision of conservative morality laws and calls for increased protection from sexual assault and the public shaming of women.
In what is dubbed the Egyptian MeToo movement, online activism calls out the systemic oppression of women in light of a number of public cases where women were victimized and shamed.
The Egyptian government has put renewed focus on citizens’ alleged “immorality” online. Interior Minister Mahmoud Tawfik instructed his ministry to monitor social media behavior that “harms or offends public morals, family sanctity, perceived debauchery and threats to societal traditions.”
While cases concerning “public morals” have occurred regularly in Egypt, the direct involvement of the government in finding and prosecuting cases has led to an online confrontation between conservative Egyptian society and the MeToo movement driven by supporters of women’s rights. A number of high-profile cases are facing trial, with some women having already been convicted to time in prison.
Prosecution of women
TikTok influencers Haneen Hossam and Mawada Eladhm were sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of roughly $18,730 for “violating family values and principles” on July 23.
Both young women had garnered millions of followers on social media platform TikTok without posting any sexual or pornographic content. Yet their social media videos were deemed to “incite debauchery and human trafficking,” sparking the MeToo hashtag “If Egyptian families permit” and an anonymous petition calling for their release.
17-year-old Menna Abdel Aziz spoke up about being raped by a friend, Mazen Ibrahim, who Menna claims raped her and filmed the assault. She appeared in an online TikTok video with a swollen face, covered in bruises. She was promptly arrested by Egyptian authorities who deemed Aziz’s MeToo story of rape, theft, and assault as “violating public morals.” The man who assaulted her was brazen in his response, saying, “She’s a girl and when a girl is upset, she could say anything.”
Many shamed the victim for her choice of dress in TikTok videos, but the hashtag “justice for Menna Andelaziz” soon became the top trending hashtag in Egypt. The victim in question appears to have faced heavy pressure from her social surroundings as she has since published videos calling her alleged rapist “like an older brother.” Menna continues to be wanted on charges of “violating public morals” for coming out with her allegations.
Poet Alaa Hasanin accused Mohammed Hashem, an Egyptian writer and manager of publisher Dar Merit, of sexually assaulting her in 2019. Hasanin alleged the prominent publisher assaulted her at his home, with his daughter sleeping in the other room. Hashem was arrested on July 13 as the Egyptian MeToo movement appears to grow.
Student Ahmed Bassem Zaki has been accused by more than 50 women after a fellow student publicly outed Zaki as a sexual predator. After the initial report, dozens of other Egyptian women shared their MeToo experiences with Zaki using the hashtag “the harasser Ahmed Bassam Zaki.”
Zaki has been accused of blackmail, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape while studying at the American University of Cairo in 2018, followed by further incidents at the EU Business School in Barcelona. Zaki has since confessed to prosecutors, according to Egyptian Streets magazine.
Another prominent Egyptian MeToo case emerged recently when news broke of a 2014 hotel gangrape following a posh dance party in Cairo. What has become known as the “Fairmont crime” resulted in several men gang-raping an unconscious woman, and signing her body with their initials. Within a day of Egyptian Streets publishing the allegations, Egypt’s prosecutor-general launched an investigation into the matter.
How impactful the Egyptian MeToo movement is in changing Egypt’s morality laws remains to be seen. With the law to protect the identity of assault victims set for a vote in the coming weeks, a first indicator of the movement’s practical impact could soon emerge.