Women from this African country could face jail time for reporting sexual harassment

There's more to be done for women to be granted the justice they deserve
There's more to be done for women to be granted the justice they deserve

It's been a bit more than a year since the #MeToo movement took off on social media after Harvey Weinstein was first accused of sexual misconduct.

Since then, women have been coming forward with endless stories to tell about their experiences of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and finally it seems like the world is ready to listen and act on the cries of violated women. 

READ MORE: Brave women like Cheryl Zondi and Dr Christine Blasey Ford have become new champions for sexual assault victims 

In Egypt, however, women who report sexual harassment are likely to face improper consequences like jail time. According to an article in Bustle.com, "reporting sexual harassment in Egypt can prompt jail time for women, because government authorities may think such reports constitute inappropriate criticism." 

Government authorities have arrested several women in the course of this year, including activist, Amal Fathy who, according to a Washington Post article, was sent to jail for two years after she posted a video that described how she had been sexually harassed at a bank.

In the article, Sudarsan Raghavan and Heba Farouk Mahfouz report that the "authorities said Fathy 'was spreading false news' to undermine the country’s image and suspended her sentence only after she paid a hefty fine". 

READ MORE: 11-year-old girls are being taught feminist self-defence as part of sexual and gender-based violence awareness 

It is not only in Egypt that women face backlash for reporting sexual crimes. In Mauritania, as reported in News24.com, women who "are raped are often unwilling to report the crime out of fear that they themselves will be jailed for breaking the west African nation's strict laws on sex outside marriage".

The article states that a draft law which would define and punish rape and sexual harassment, create separate sex offence courts and allow NGOs to file cases on behalf of victims is pending. 

Even a year after sexual violence was pushed into a zero-tolerance spotlight on a global scale, women are still not only afraid to report the crimes against them, but they are not given the justice they seek even after they gather the courage to report.

And, the rise of the #MeToo movement itself is not entirely a win for women in Africa, many conclude, due to severely patriarchal societies and an intense culture of victim-blaming and stigmas. 

The bravery of speaking up about sexual abuse and sexual violence might not be worth facing a failing justice system or endless stigmas around women who are raped, which is why so much more needs to be done in listening to women's appeals and protecting them in all ways possible. 

Do you believe that the #MeToo movement has helped African women significantly or not? Chat to us about it here

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