A group of activists are calling attention to an issue that some feel has been ignored in Egypt: sexual harassment of women.
HarassMap, a volunteer-based initiative, started off in 2010 by crowdsourcing reports on sexual harassment on the street and mapping them online. Their work involved analyzing the trends based on the reports and providing people with legal and psychological counseling if needed.
But last week, Harassmap unveiled the new face of a campaign which raises awareness about criminalizing harassment under the name “Harasser = Criminal.”
“The objective of the campaign is to establish in people’s minds that sexual harassment is in fact a crime,” HarassMap’s Safe Areas Unit Head Ahmad Hegab said during a press conference to launch the campaign. “The campaign has multiple objectives; one of which is to create zero-tolerance attitude to sexual harassment.”
Based on a 2014 survey by HarassMap, at least 95.3 percent of women in Egypt have been harassed before, with 82.3 percent of the respondents blaming harassment on the victim, saying that they refrain from intervening when they witness cases of harassment.
HarassMap sets out to change a societal perspective about harassment making sure people are assessing it as a crime and not a negative social phenomenon.
According to Egyptian law, sexual harassment is a crime, and based on articles 306 (a) and 306 (b) of the Penal Code, verbal, behavioral, phone or online sexual harassment can lead up to a prison sentence of between six months and five years, and up to LE50,000 ($6,564) in fines.
But what use is a law if society is unaware of it or chooses not to abide by it?
Unlike most of the group's previous campaigns, “Harasser = Criminal” will materialize and be communicated across TV, radio and online through different social media. This comes hand-in-hand with on-the-ground activity across Egypt.
“We expect to see reactions from people in the streets after this campaign, and we need support from the people, organizations involved in the cause and the media in order to realize the campaign’s objectives,” said Hadeer Mamdouh, social media coordinator at HarassMap.