Egypt reported a total of 415 violent crimes against women and girls during 2020, according to the Edraak Foundation for Development and Equality.
According to its Gender-Based Violence Crimes Against Women and Girls Observatory (GBV-CAW Observatory), the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly contributed to this increase.
The pandemic has created a more fertile environment for violence, especially domestic violence, in large part due to the lockdowns and night-time curfews. Unfortunately, this trend in gender-based domestic violence is not confined to Egypt or the Middle East.
Talking to Daily News Egypt, Nagwa Ramadan, Executive Director of Edraak, said that the organisation has noticed the increase over 2020 through its monitoring process.
This has shown that gender-based violence increased significantly in the second half (H2) of 2020, with 299 cases of violence against women and girls reported. In H1 of the year, a total of 116 cases were reported.
The significant increase between the two halves of the year can be attributed to the negative effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on social protections, particularly for those who are at most at risk.
Women have not only had to deal with lockdowns and the increasing economic and financial pressures caused by the pandemic, as businesses found it increasingly hard to function. They have also had to deal with the disintegration or lack of access to social protection networks during the first wave.
This has, in turn, had an equally negative effect on the risks of women and girls being exposed to violence as a result of psychological pressure and physical disruption to families.
Murder and suicide
In an Edraak report, it was found that a total of 165 women and girls were murdered across Egypt during the year, making this the most common form of gender-based violence in the country.
“There were 113 cases of murder due to domestic violence perpetrated by a member of the family, or a current or former partner, and 14 cases of murder due to what are known as honour crimes,” Edraak said, “There was also one murder case recorded caused by the crime of female genital mutilation (FGM), with 10 bodies of unidentified women and girls discovered showing signs of torture and beatings.”
Edraak’s data showed that the largest number of deaths caused by domestic violence took place in Giza Governorate, accounting for 15% of the numbers. This was followed by Cairo Governorate which reported 10.6% of the cases, while the governorates of the Red Sea, Kafr El-Sheikh, Matrouh, Beni Suef, and the New Valley coming at the end of the list, with 1% per governorate.
In 2020, Edraak reported 14 murders due to suspicion being placed on a woman’s behaviour, accounting for 12.3% of the total number of murders due to domestic violence, and 23 attempted murders.
This was followed by 54 reported suicide cases among girls and women of all ages, in addition to nine cases of attempted suicides.
“All suicides cases are legally recorded as a result of the victim/survivor going through a psychological crisis to close the case file, and rarely is it announced that girls or women are exposed to domestic violence or any other reasons that may lead them to commit suicide,” the report added.
It also revealed that Sharqeya governorate has the highest suicide rate, recording 16.6% of the cases, followed by Giza Governorate with 11%, and Gharbeya governorate with a rate of 9.2%.
Edraak’s researchers found 34 cases of severe beatings, which are defined as “leading to permanent disability, bruises, or fractures that require a long period of treatment.”
Giza governorate recorded the highest rates of severe beatings during 2020, with 26.4% of cases, followed by Gharbeya governorate with 17.6%.
Rape and sexual harassment
The Edraak report showed that 44 rapes against girls and women of various ages in Egypt were witnessed in 2020, including four cases among those with special needs.
In the latter cases, the perpetrator exploits the victim/survivor’s inability to speak or resist, as well as the fact that the victim’s story will frequently be questioned, making the incidence of reporting such crimes lower.
The gravity of the matter is so high that a large number of parents resort to hysterectomies for their female relatives with disabilities, to avoid their exposure to pregnancy caused by rape and incest. This, in itself, is a form of physical violence practiced by a patriarchal society and authority against women and girls with special needs.
Cairo topped the list with the highest rate of rape, recorded at 29.5%, followed by Giza with a rate of 15.9%.
Concerning sexual harassment, the report added that, in 2020, a total of 57 crimes of sexual harassment against girls and women in Egypt took place – and these were just the cases that were reported.
Cairo also topped the list with the highest rates of sexual harassment, accounting for 35.7%, followed by Giza with 15.2%.
Edraak researchers also monitored eight official reports of cases of electronic harassment in the country over the course of the year.
As the organisation mainly focuses on reported cases, this does also mean that there are many cases of unreported crimes and silent victims.
In response to this, Ramadan said, “We think there are tens of thousands of cases and violations that occur against women and girls, but these are not officially reported.”
Ramadan added, “These include cases and complaints received by the complaints office at the National Council for Women (NCW), and the testimonies and cases monitored on social media pages and blogs, which are not reported officially.”
Talking to Daily News Egypt, Ramadan added that Egyptian society needs to encourage women and girls to report through advocacy campaigns created by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the government. This will guarantee those reporting a more secure reporting mechanism, which also guarantees protection for survivors/victims.
The report mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the main reasons for the hike in violence against women, with violence rates likely to rise again as the world experiences a second wave of the virus. With this in mind, Ramadan outlined some recommendations in order to prevent another hike in gender-based violence, as seen earlier in 2020.
These recommendations include: enhancing the response and support mechanisms for victims and survivors; emphasising the increasing number of secure hotlines for victims to report the crimes; providing legal and psychological support; in addition to issuing protection measures that can be applicable effectively.
“The government needs to accelerate issuance and amendments of laws such as personal status law, and issue a domestic violence law which can handle through Penal Code articles the high rates of domestic violence and honour killings,” Ramadan said.
She noted that NGOs also need to work closely and open up a dialogue with units at the Ministry of Interior that combat violence. This dialogue would also reach out to members of public and administrative prosecution, to enhance the response and reporting mechanisms.
Judges will also be ordered to stop using Article 17 of Egypt’s Penal Code which provides clemency in cases of gender-based violence, and which is widely applied in honour killing cases.