A 19-year-old girl drowned in the River Nile on Monday, reportedly in an attempt to flee from a street harasser, after efforts to rescue her failed.
Four eyewitnesses, including one of the victim’s friends walking with her at the time, confirmed that the girl encountered sexual harassment from a lone man. It is reported the man tried to touch her, and then followed the pair for approximately half an hour.
The news went viral on social media, with some claiming that the aggressor also carried acid. However, the eyewitnesses denied any acid attacks against the girl.
Fathy Fareed, spokesman of the non-profit iniatiative “I Saw Harassment” initiative, denounced the official statements around the death and called for an official interior ministry investigation to be published publicly.
The “I Saw Harassment” initiative is a non-profit activity that documents sexual harassment incidents, and runs civil security patrols during large public gatherings to counter such incidents by sending harassers to police stations.
Both the Ministry of Interior and the Forensic Medicine Authority confirmed the death of the girl. According to the spokesman of the Forensic Medicine Authority Hisham Abdelhamid, however, the girl jumped off the bridge “because she was facing personal hardships”. The Ministry of Interior refused to give further details on the cause of death.
Despite tougher security measures on the street to counter sexual harassment, in July -during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday – 147 sexual harassment incidents were reported in the downtown area. This included 35 in the vicinity of the Qasr Al-Nil Bridge, where the girl jumped off, of which one involved a bladed weapon, according to civil security patrols.
“I Saw Harassment” reported street responses especially from males have not changed, reporting that men often hold the victims accountable for harassment incidents due to their “provocative” clothes and looks. They also monitored the hate speech against many women after the release of new harassment law in June.
In April 2013, the United Nations issued a new report saying that 99.3% of Egyptian women face sexual harassment, using a survey for women across seven Egyptian governorates.
Egypt’s interim cabinet amended the harassment law and included it in the country’s penal code in June. The new amendments escalated the penalties for any form of verbal or nonverbal sexual harassment or abuse in public or private areas, to at least six months imprisonment and a fine of between EGP 3,000 and EGP 5,000.
The amendments were triggered by a mass sexual assault on 8 June during celebrations in Tahrir Square for President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s inauguration. A video uploaded on YouTube, showing a stripped woman being sexually assaulted by a group of men, went viral on social media, prompting the government’s response.