Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: Triumph over sexual harassment

October 23, 2008 |  7:46 am

Noha_roushdy_2 Sexual harassment may no more go unpunished in Egypt. In a landmark verdict this week, a Cairo court sentenced a truck driver to three years in prison for groping a woman.

The crime happened last summer when Sherif Gomaa Gibrial slowed his truck and reached out and grabbed Noha Roushdy's breast while she was walking near her home. Roushdy wouldn't let it pass. She ran and and grabbed onto the truck, forcing Gibrial to stop.

By insisting on taking her harasser to court, Roushy broke the silence and shame many Egyptian women and tourists face when they confront profanities and assaults. In a patriarchal society, where the blame for sexual harassment is squarely put on the victim, harassed women prefer to remain discreet.  However, Roushdy's insistence on justice and her cause celebre case may change such attitudes.

Sexual harassment is deemed one of Egypt's most insidious crimes. According to a report issued last summer by some local women's advocacy group, 83% of Egyptian women have been exposed to sexual harassment. Feminists have been complaining that there is no strict legal code to fight the phenomenon.

"This verdict will make young men think a thousand times before committing sexual harassment," said Roushdy.

The 27-year-old documentary director decided not to hide from society; on the contrary, she was brave enough to appear in court and have her photo taken by different news organizations.

— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: Roushdy in court (al-Masry al-Youm/ Mohamed Hossam Eddin)

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