Anti-harassment volunteers, wearing red vests, are talking toyoungsters by the banks of the Nile in Cairo.
Sexual harassment has sharply increased in the Egyptian capital during this past holiday of Eid Al Fitr, a monitoring group reported on Tuesday.
Around 223 cases of verbal, physical and mob sexual harassment were registered during the three-day festival that ended on Sunday compared to 35 on last year’s occasion, the non-governmental group Shoft Taharush (I Saw Harassment) said.
“Our volunteers noticed over the three days of Eid that the ages of females subjected to harassment in the area of downtown Cairo were lower than before,” said the group whose members are usually stationed across central Cairo on major occasions.
Central Cairo is famous for its cinema houses and shopping malls, which are often crowded during holidays.
“The majority of women and girls, exposed to sexual harassment refused to file official complaints,” the group added, citing fears of potential social disgrace among victims.
Security authorities said they had deployed women policemen during the Eid holiday to deter would-be harassers.
According to the state-appointed National Council for Women, police recorded 136 sexual harassment incidents in Cairo during the Eid holidays.
The Cairo-based watchdog did not report about the situation during the Eid in other parts of this country populated by around 90 million people.
“There is constant coordination between the council and the Interior Ministry with the aim of standing firm against harassment. This has resulted in a marked drop in its occurrence especially after state authorities have toughened the penalty against this offence,” said the council’s chairwoman, Mervat Al Telawi.
Egypt has in the past two years stepped up efforts to combat sexual harassment.
A UN report released in 2013 found that 99.3 per cent of women in Egypt have experienced some form of sexual harassment. Conservative members of society usually blame women for being subjected to harassment.
Under recent legal amendments, sexual harassment in Egypt is punishable by jail terms of up to 10 years.
In recent months, Egyptian courts have issued tough jail sentences in cases of sex assaults. The verdicts were delivered following a short number of hearings. Previously, such cases took long years before a ruling was delivered.