A statement by Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim authority has called for strong penalties against perpetrators of sexual harassment, following an increase in reports.
Several incidents, apparently recorded last week by victims or bystanders during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, and posted on social media, left many Egyptians in shock.
One showed a fight in Alexandria, in which a 40-year-old man was stabbed to death when fending off a man harassing his wife.
Media said the unidentified 39-year-old attacker was in custody.
In another social media post, a crowd of young men in the Nile River delta city of Damanhour fought off a motorbike rider as he tried to rescue three women being mobbed on a public street.
The authenticity of the recordings could not be independently verified, but some local media reported on them.
In a statement issued on Monday, al-Azhar University said that sexual harassment in any form was deviant behavior and rejected any attempt to blame the way some women dress or behave.
“Al-Azhar has closely followed up the reports of sexual harassment incidents recently circulated by the mass media outlets and social media networks including harassers’ violent attacks on those trying to save women,” the statement said.
“Al-Azhar asserts that criminalizing harassment and those who commit harassment must be absolute and without any condition or context,” it added.
The statement rejected attempts to blame women for sexual harassment, saying abuse “violates women’s privacy, freedom and human dignity.”
Al-Azhar demanded the activation of all laws that punish sexual abuse and called for efforts to raise social awareness.
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