Egypt’s highest Sunni Muslim authority has stated that there can be no justification for molestation, in a country where many people often blame women themselves for the widespread problems they face.
In a statement, Al-Azhar blasted all forms of harassment as “a forbidden act and deviant behavior”.
“Criminalizing molestation must be absolute and free from any condition or context,” the statement released Monday said.
“Justifying molestation with the behavior or clothing of the woman is a misunderstanding, for harassment is an assault on the woman and her freedom and dignity,” it said.
Some 60 percent of women in Egypt said they had been victims of some form of harassment during their lifetimes in a 2017 report from U.N. Women and Promundo.
Three-quarters of men and 84 percent of women polled said that women who “dress provocatively deserve to be harassed.”
The divisions have been highlighted by a recent debate over a video posted on the internet by an Egyptian woman showing a man making unwanted advances on her in a Cairo street. The footage drew wide-ranging reactions online.
Public debate over harassment intensified in the aftermath of the January 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak. The protests demanding Mubarak’s ouster cantered around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where constant media coverage also highlighted attacks and helped show the public denial of the phenomenon. Following the 2011 uprising, anti-harassment graffiti spread around downtown Cairo, volunteers organized to rescue women from mob attacks, and more women shared their own stories publicly. In February 2013, women took to the streets to protest against such violence.