Most, if not all, Arab women have faced some kind of sexual assault at least once in their lives, if not more. Yet, the crime is still happening and doesn’t seem to be abating. The only positive part about this is that, in the past few years, sexual harassment has become an important topic of discussion and countries across the region have taken steps to criminalize it in court and implement strict punishments against it.
There are many forms of sexual harassment. Whether it’s physical or verbal or even virtual, offenders should not be protected by society or their families and should be legally punished. The more countries adopt laws that prohibit sexual harassment and consider it a crime, the fewer crimes like these will occur.
In Egypt, the law protecting women against sexual harassment is split into verbal and cyber harassment, harassment at work, and unwanted sexual contact. Anyone found guilty of verbal sexual harassment will be sentenced to a minimum of six months in prison and fined no less than EGP 3,000, according to Article 306 of the Egyptian penal code. As for sexual harassment at work, the criminal may be sentenced to two years in prison and fined up to EGP 20,000; it can sometimes reach five years in prison and a fine of EGP 50,000. For unwanted sexual contact, the harasser would be punished with a minimum of one year in prison and a fine between EGP 10,000 and EGP 20,000.
Any victim of sexual harassment in Egypt can reach out for help to the National Council for Women on 15115, the Ministry of Social Solidarity on 16439, 022795022, and ‘Es2al Mo7amek’ (Ask Your Online Lawyer) on 01002448677, 0115777282. Inside Out Counseling Center is also offering free therapy sessions for survivors.
The United Arab Emirates’ law against sexual harassment consists of a prison sentence of not less than one year and/or a fine of not less than AED 10,000. If the harasser was carrying a weapon, the minimum prison sentence is doubled and the fine is increased to a minimum of AED 50,000. More so, Dubai Police have set up a 24-hour hotline for reporting cases of sexual abuse, anonymously, on 042661228.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also criminalizes sexual harassment through a law that includes 8 articles. The penalty is at least two years in prison and paying a fine of up to SAR 100,000, and the more severe penalty reaches up to five years in prison and a fine of SAR 300,000.
Under Tunisian law, sexual harassment is punishable by one year in prison and a fine worth 3,000 dinar. At the end of 2019, Tunisia launched its own #MeToo movement, called #EnaZeda to break the silence surrounding the topic and encourage Tunisian women to speak up against their abusers.
Sexual harassment is punishable by law in Yemen, however, the crime’s definition in Yemen’s penal code is not very specific. According to Articles 270-274, offenders can be sentenced to up to six months in prison or a fine.
Articles 191 and 192 of Kuwait’s penal code criminalize sexual harassment. The criminal shall be punished with up to 10 or 15 years of imprisonment, depending on whether he threatened or deceived the victim or not.