“I will not stay quiet. All women in Egypt need to wake up – those to whom this [sexual assault] happened and those to whom this didn’t happen. Otherwise, such violence will continue…”
– Dalia Abdel Wahab, a protester and survivor of a violent sexual assault on 25 January 2013, speaking to Amnesty International
Violent sexual assaults against women, including rapes, have surged in the vicinity of Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square in recent months. They peaked in scale and brutality on 25 January 2013 during protests commemorating the second anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
In a memorandum sent to President Mohamed Morsi on 29 June 2012 shortly after his election, Amnesty International urged him to address chronic violence and discrimination against women, including the targeting of female protesters by security and armed forces. In spite of Morsi’s promise to be the president of all Egyptians, such calls went unheeded.
It is vital that President Morsi, as well as leaders of ruling and opposition political parties, exercise strong political will to tackle gender-based violence. President Morsi as head of state must take immediate action to ensure that all incidents of sexual assault and harassment of women in and around Tahrir Square are effectively investigated and perpetrators brought to justice. Until the pervasive climate of impunity for such acts of gender-based violence ends, women will continue to face violent attacks while their attackers brazenly go unpunished. Long overdue legal and institutional reforms must also be introduced to stop repetition of such crimes and end impunity.