A young girl was exposed to sexual violence on the street. She was shocked and returned home speechless, took a shower, and burned the clothes she was wearing during the incident. When she woke up in the following day, she started to realize what happened and decided to file a report or complain at a police station against the abuser. Unfortunately, she could not prove any of her claims as she destroyed almost all the evidence. This is not an imaginary story; many girls were exposed to sexual violence and because they were in shock they did not know how to react.
In Egypt, the Observatory on Gender-Based Violence Crimes against Women and Girls (GBV-CAW Observatory) issued by the Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality, recorded 37 rape cases from January to October 2020, where the perpetrator is a family member or a stranger. The number is expected to increase by the year end.
Moreover, many believe the actual number of sexual violence victims is larger than the announced in the report as many girls prefer to remain silent.
“A recent study on the economic cost of violence against women in Egypt indicated that about 7.88 million women suffer from all kinds of violence annually, of whom less than 1% report the incident or even reach for support,” a representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Cairo, Germaine Haddad said in early December.
International and Egyptian researchers alike have confirmed that violence against women is both varied and widespread in Egypt. According to the 2005 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS), 47% of ever-married women reported that they experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
The National Council for Women, in collaboration with the Forensic Medical Authority in Cairo, issued a pamphlet, entitled “Instructions in the event of exposure to sexual violence”. It includes important information and instructions for any woman or girl who is exposed to sexual violence to seek justice.
The pamphlet advised women to keep the clothes they were wearing during the incident; keep any fluids that belong to the abuser using tissues to present them to the prosecution or the forensic medicine.
In addition, the NCW advised women not to shower or wash any part of their body until they go to the forensic medicine.
The NCW stressed that women must report any sexual violence case as fast as possible to protect themselves from any contagious venereal diseases that may transmit to them from the perpetrator, including acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
It is also important to know that the forensic services ensure complete confidentiality, and the referral to forensic medicine takes place through the public prosecution, which also guarantees complete confidentiality.
Organizations concerned with the women rights in Egypt and female activists still call for a unified law on violence against women.
According to the Egyptian Penal Code, penalties for sexual assault and kidnapping of women and children vary between imprisonment and death sentence. Before 1999, the Egyptian law stipulated that all sexual violence charges shall drop in the event that the perpetrator married his victim.
Moreover, the Egyptian law does not consider some violent actions as criminal offense, such as placing an instrument in a woman’s genitals, removing girl’s hymen using a tool or hand, or anal rape. The law considers such acts as sexual molestation whose penalty does not exceed 7-year imprisonment. Therefore, issuing a unified law that addresses all these forms of abuse is a must.