The following is a guest post by George Sadek, a senior legal research analyst at the Law Library of Congress. George has contributed a number of posts to this blog, including posts on Egypt’s new antiterrorism law, the legal processes available to imprisoned journalists in Egypt, the trial of Seif al Islam al Gaddafi, constitutional developments in Egypt, the 2015 municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, and new rules for the construction of churches in Egypt.
Violence against women has increasingly been recognized as a significant social and legal problem in Egypt. Previously this problem was not addressed extensively. Over the past two decades, however, media outlets and women’s rights activists have sought to educate Egyptian society about the common forms of violence against women. Domestic and international nongovernmental organizations have also issued reports on the scope of the problem and methods to overcome it.
I have been interested for some time in how different legal measures impact women and women’s rights in Egypt, including victims of sexual violence. I have been following news, developments, and discussions in this area and during the past year I, along with two interns, undertook some in-depth research on the laws related to prosecuting crimes of sexual violence against women.
The report that resulted from this research, titled Egypt: Sexual Violence Against Women, is now available on the Law Library’s website. It discusses (1) the development of the current legal framework for addressing sexual violence; (2) existing definitions of crimes of violence against women under the Criminal Code; (3) the legal requirements for a criminal conviction and the aggravating circumstances that must be considered; and (4) the actors involved in the process of investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating crimes, including crimes of sexual violence.
The report also outlines ideas suggested by activists and women’s rights groups for improving current laws and the justice system, in order to address legal and procedural hurdles impeding the successful prosecution of violent sexual crimes.
The report explains that the Egyptian Criminal Code divides crimes of violence against women into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors include sexual harassment. Felonies include female genital mutilation, rape, kidnapping a female, and sexual assault. Over the past twenty years, provisions of the Egyptian Criminal Code have been modified to enhance existing punishments against sexual violence and criminalize acts against women that were not previously considered crimes. The report also discusses decisions of the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation that have set out requirements for convicting perpetrators of sexual violence against women as well as the aggravating circumstances that affect such convictions.
Trial proceedings for felonies and misdemeanors related to sexual offenses against women are also covered. Further, the report identifies the role of the public prosecution, law enforcement agencies, and medical examiners during the process of investigating sexual misdemeanors and felonies. Finally, it outlines various ideas that have been put forward by women’s organizations for enhancing the Egyptian legal system to protect victims’ rights and more effectively combat violent sexual crimes against women. These include (1) the amendment of the Criminal Code to remove provisions that discriminate against women; (2) the addition of new provisions to both the Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure focusing on victims’ right to privacy and appropriate access to benefits offered by the ministries of justice, health and interior; and (3) measures to improve the criminal justice system in general.
Many other reports by Law Library staff on a wide range of topics are available on the Law Library’s website.