Sexual violence goes too often unpunished in Egypt, Mozn Hassan warns
Preventing and punishing sexual violence in Egypt remains a serious problem as victims are often discouraged from reporting such crimes, and abusers evade punishment, 2016 Right Livelihood Laureate Mozn Hassan told the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
Hassan, who is an Egyptian women’s rights activist known for documenting sexual violence during the 2011 Egyptian revolution, took part in a dialogue with a UN expert on violence against women at the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“In the Egyptian context, patriarchal social norms coupled with deeply discriminatory State practices not only fail to deliver justice to survivors but further subject them to re-victimisation and victim-blaming,” Hassan told the Council.
She warned that as a consequence, women often don’t report sexual crimes against them, while their abusers enjoy impunity.
Hassan said that Egyptian laws don’t provide adequate protection, to begin with.
“Rape, in particular, falls short of being clearly defined,” she said, noting that the definition doesn’t include many non-consensual sexual acts.
Hassan called on Egyptian authorities to investigate all sexual violence cases, hold perpetrators accountable and provide support to victims.
She also asked Dubravka Simonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, to give input on how the Human Rights Council could ensure that countries like Egypt provide support to victims of sexual violence and prevent such crimes in the first place.
The discussion focused on Simonovic’s recent report on rape. She called on states to bring their laws on preventing and punishing rape in line with human rights standards because, as things stand, women are not protected and are often re-victimised when they report sexual violence.
“Rape is frequently not reported, and even if reported, it is seldom prosecuted,” Simonovic said.
“Even if there is a prosecution, it is rarely handled in a gender-sensitive manner and often leads to re-victimisation while producing few convictions. The result is normalisation of rape, a culture of rape or silence on rape, stigmatization of victims and impunity for perpetrators.”
Hassan received the Right Livelihood Award together with Nazra for Feminist Studies, the organisation she had co-founded. Hassan emerged as a powerful voice raising attention to rampant sexual assaults on women during the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Despite sanctions and judicial harassment, Hassan continues to raise women’s voices in the Middle East and North Africa region.