Egypt varsity sexual harassment sparks outrage

2014-03-18 21:10
Egyptians read the newspaper as they line up at a polling station to vote in the country's constitutional referendum in the upscale Zamalek neighborhood in Cairo, Egypt. (Maya Alleruzzo, AP)

Egyptians read the newspaper as they line up at a polling station to vote in the country's constitutional referendum in the upscale Zamalek neighborhood in Cairo, Egypt. (Maya Alleruzzo, AP)

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Cairo - A case of sexual harassment in one of Egypt's largest universities has sparked outrage after the dean said the women's outfit triggered the incident.

In a video that has gone viral on social networks and has been covered by local media, Cairo University security guards escort a student wearing tight black pants and a long sleeved pink top after she hid in a toilet from dozens of male students who were sexually harassing her.

More than 99% of women in Egypt have been subjected to a form of harassment, according to a study carried out in 2013 by UN Women.

Women report that they are harassed regardless of whether they are dressed in conservative Islamic veils or Western-style clothing.

University dean Gaber Nassar said the student's outfit, which he described as "a bit unconventional," led to the harassment, quickly adding that he was not justifying the incident.

"This girl entered the university wearing an abaya [loose cloak] and then took it off in the faculty, and appeared with those clothes, that caused, in reality - but this doesn't justify at all" the incident, Nassar said on private Egyptian channel ONTV.

He said university guards turn away students who show up at campus dressed inappropriately.

"The student's mistake does not justify what the [other] students did," he added.

Most of Cairo University's female students wear jeans and tops and avoid revealing clothes, and many wear the traditional Islamic headscarves, as do the majority of Egypt's women.

Nassar later wrote on Twitter that he was misunderstood and that he was not blaming the student for the incident.

Undress her

"I assure that this is not true and I apologise for the misunderstanding and I repeat that those who [harassed the girl] will be severely punished," he wrote.

Fathi Farid, with an anti-sexual harassment group, said male students had verbally attacked the woman and attempted to undress her.

"The worst is that people always find justification for the harassment and blame it on the victim," said Farid, a founding member of the "I saw harassment" campaign that documents sexual harassment against women.

The incident sparked outrage on social networks and in the media.

Nassar "should be interrogated and expelled, investigations into the incident should start immediately", women's rights activist Mariam Kirollos wrote on her Twitter account.

Several popular talk-shows covered the incident.

"A girl is naked, does it mean someone should jump on her?" television host Amr Adib asked in disbelief, during his show on the privately-owned Orbit channel.

Read more on:    egypt  |  north africa  |  gender equality
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