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Why Women in Egypt Won’t Go to the Police When Molested

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Sexual harassment and assault occurs daily around the world but is particularly prevalent in Egypt. Yet women there are very reluctant to go to the police.

Reda El-Danbouki, an Egyptian women’s rights lawyer who secured the country’s first ever conviction for female genital mutilation, told Clarion Project this is because of the way women are treated by the police when they do come forward.

He told Clarion:

"Not very long ago one of my friends was telling me about her experiences with the subject of harassment and I was discussing with her the importance of notifying the police about the situation, the centers of psychological support and the legal assistance.

"I have noticed that she categorically refuses to tell the police about any case of harassment. Not only because there are no rules to bring the woman back her honor, but also because the cops respond with a mentality of Eastern males to these kinds of situations.

"This is what she told me:

A while ago I was physically molested by three men on the promenade next to the radio and television building. I exercised my legal and human right to press charges against them.

After we went to the police station, the officer refused to register a complaint unless my father came to the station, even though I am not a minor.

One of the men who molested me was present in the station as I was filing the complaint, which is illegal. He accused me of being a hooker and the officer didn’t object and said that they agreed to hire me but that I didn’t like the price and so that’s why I screamed and shamed them.

The officer asked my father this stupid question: ‘if your daughter is not married, we can do an exam according to sharia medical science, to make sure she has an intact hymen.’

Of course I rejected this humiliation and refused to be checked by a sharia doctor who would look between my legs.

My father and the officer continued to blame me for things regarding my honor, exactly like the men who molested me. I was reduced to tears by this flagrant oppression and I didn’t know how to respond. Eventually I dropped the complaint.”   

Danbouki continued: "I tried to calm her down and was looking for a way to change the subject because it was obvious that she might cry again and is clearly suffering from psychological trauma.

"I asked her what she would do if this happened again? She replied if this molestation happens again, either I will go home lock myself in my room and prefer to cry, or I will try to hire thugs that will do what must be done with the molesters. But I will never go the legal route again.” 

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David Harris

David Harris is the editor in chief of Clarion Project.

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