The head of Egypt’s leading state university has provoked furious condemnation for claiming that an on-campus sexual harassment case was the fault of the female student who was targeted and saying that she may be punished.
The Cairo University student was surrounded on Monday by a group of male students, who allegedly sexually harassed her as she walked across the busy campus. The woman was later escorted from the university by campus security, and the incident was filmed by bystanders — many of whom appeared unconcerned — and uploaded to social media.
Cairo University president Nasser Gaber told a television talkshow that the incident had resulted in part from the woman wearing colorful clothes, instead of a more conservative cloak, or abaya. He also said that she may face punishment for the incident along with her harassers, and possibly expulsion.
“We don’t require a uniform here, but clothes should be within the tradition of our society. The girl’s mistake doesn’t justify what happened to her at the hands of those students. We referred the whole incident to an investigation and everything is recorded by the university cameras. We will find out who is guilty — whether the girl or the [other] students — and we are going to punish them with the proper punishment, which might be expulsion from the university,” Gaber told OnTV, a private Egyptian network
Women’s rights activists reacted furiously to Gaber’s remarks. Soraya Bahgat of Tahrir Bodyguards, a group that rescues women from mob sexual assaults during protests, said: “I find it insanely appalling that the head of arguably the most important university in Egypt said that her clothes were to blame ... it highlights one of the things that is wrong with this society, which is to blame the victim [of sexual harassment] for what happened.”
Following criticism of his remarks, Gaber said he had been misunderstood.
According to a UN survey, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women reported being sexually harassed, with 91 percent saying they felt insecure in the street as a result.