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Egypt imposes new penalties for sexual harassment

Egypt approved new punishments for sexual harassment, amid rising pressure on authorities to fight the rampant phenomenon.

CAIRO: Egypt approved new punishments on Thursday for sexual harassment, amid rising pressure on authorities to fight the rampant phenomenon.

Until now, Egypt has not had a law defining sexual harassment, despite more than 99 per cent of women being subjected to some form of abuse, a 2013 study by the United Nations (UN) said.

But outgoing interim president Adly Mansour approved a range of amendments on Thursday that would punish offences against women.

These would include jail terms, fines, or both.

Any sexual or pornographic suggestions or hints through words, signs or acts are now punishable by imprisonment for at least six months.

Such acts could also carry fines of between 3,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$419 or 307 euros) and 5,000 pounds.

If sexual harassment is "committed with the aim of obtaining sexual advantages from the victim," offenders can be jailed for at least one year and fined 10,000-20,000 pounds.

Imprisonment for from two to five years and fine of 20,000-50,000 pounds would apply if offenders use professional, family or academic power or circumstantial pressures on the victim.

Activists brushed off the penalties.

They "are of no value" because they give the judge the right to choose between a fine or jail, said Fathi Farid, a founder of the "I Saw Harassment" campaign that documents sexual harassment of women.

He also said they were "not enough for cases involving sexual assaults by mobs."

Since the 2011 uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has witnessed a jump in sexual assault, with women even attacked by mobs of young men in the middle of demonstrations.

In March, a sexual harassment case at a leading university sparked outrage after the dean suggested it was sparked by what the woman was wearing.

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