In an unprecedented ruling, an Egyptian man, Sharif Gommaa, was sentenced Tuesday to three years in jail with hard labor for sexually harassing and groping a woman in the streets of Cairo. The Middle East Times reports that Noha Rushdi Saleh, the 27-year-old victim and a well-known film director, will also receive 5,001 Egyptian pounds ($895) in compensation.
Saleh, who was walking in the upscale Heliopolis suburb of Cairo, was repeatedly groped by Gommaa as he trailed alongside her in his vehicle. At one point he grabbed Saleh’s breasts so forcefully that she lost her balance and fell to the ground.
Aggressive sexual harassment of women in Egyptian streets is so pervasive that the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR) persistently advocates for the government to address what it calls a “social cancer.” The ECWR recently issued a survey suggesting that as many as 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women have experienced some form of sexual harassment or unwarranted sexual advances in Egypt in public. Although the country’s criminal code does impose a prison sentence and fine for sexual abuses and attacks, it lacks a clear definition of sexual harassment according to the BBC. Women’s rights activists hailed the ruling as the first known prison sentence for public sexual harassment of a woman in Egypt.
Officers initially refused opening an investigation for Saleh, but because of her notoriety in the community and courage to bring Gommaa to the police station to formally press charges, the case gained enough media coverage to go to court.