By Maria Caspani
LONDON (TrustLaw) – Hundreds of people marched through Talaat Harb Square in Cairo on Tuesday to protest against sexual harassment and violence against women in Egypt, Ahram Online reports.
Protesters also gathered outside Egyptian embassies and consulates in several countries including Lebanon, Tunisia and France in response to a “call for action” launched on Facebook by the Uprising of Women in the Arab World, a women’s rights group.
Sexual harassment is an endemic problem in Egypt and made headlines again on Monday, the second anniversary of the uprising that ousted long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak. Activists and civil society organisations reported more than 20 cases of women being attacked and groped by men as mass protests took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Human rights groups have long denounced both sexual harassment itself and the lack of investigations and prosecutions by the Egyptian judiciary.
Mariam Kirollos, a member of the Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH) movement, told Ahram Online that she was also protesting against statements made by some Shura council (upper house) members that implied that the protesters who were assaulted were responsible for the attacks on them.
"They basically said that women are responsible for the horrendously violent attacks on Tahrir and said we should have specially designated areas for women to protest. We might as well as have a separate Egypt for women," the online news outlet quoted her as saying.
Demonstrations against sexual harassment also took place in the governorates of Alexandria, Mansoura and Damietta.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy and Labour Michael Posner expressed concern on Tuesday about a “climate of impunity” over abuses by police and security forces in Egypt.
He told a news conference after a four-day visit "We have heard reports of cases throughout Egypt where the police have resorted to torture and other forms of cruel treatment of those in their custody.”
"This contributes to a climate of impunity and a lack of meaningful accountability for these actions," Posner said, adding that authorities had also failed to identify and punish perpetrators of "an alarming number of rapes and other acts of violence against women".