Egyptian Taking Sexual Harasser To Cairo Court In Test Case

Lyla El-Gueretly, a 30-year-old school teacher, is taking her sexual harasser to court after he repeatedly slapped her for confronting his sexual gestures and remarks as she was walking on a Cairo bridge in early April.

While riding a public bus, the 40-year-old man called her a “whore” and made sexual gestures with his mouth, El-Gueretly said in a telephone interview. That’s when she confronted him, saying: “Shame on your beard. Why pretend to be so religious, if you are not going to be religious.” He then got off the bus and began hitting her, she said.

The hearing, on June 19, is being seen as a test case for sexual harassment in Egypt, where women complain it is a daily occurrence and that there is no proper legislation to guard against its rise. A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights said 62 percent of men admitted to sexually harassing women, and 53 percent said women who are harassed “bring it on” themselves.

Egypt’s government-backed National Council for Women submitted a draft law to toughen penalties for sexual harassment crimes to President Mohamed Morsi, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported on June 12. The law is expected to set clear definitions for crimes including rape. It comes after at least 29 women were sexually assaulted and raped in Tahrir Square on January 25.

El-Gueretly’s case has been filed by the prosecution as one of physical attack, insult and slander, rather than verbal sexual harassment and assault, she said.

’’The prosecutor focused on the physical attack, rather than the sexual remarks,’’ El-Gueretly said. ’’He also didn’t think the incident was serious enough to keep someone locked up.’’

The defendant was released and El-Gueretly said she doesn’t expect him to show up for the hearing, or for the police to arrest him if he is convicted. He faces between three to six years in prison under the current charges, she said.