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  • 11 June 2014, 17:22

Egypt President Sorry Over 'Worst' Sex Attack

Egypt's new president has apologised to a woman who was attacked during the celebrations to mark his inauguration at the weekend.

Abdel Fattah al Sisi visited the woman at a Cairo hospital and told her: "I have come to tell you and every Egyptian woman that I am sorry. I am apologising to every Egyptian woman."

It comes after he ordered a crackdown on sex crimes following the emergence of a video, which has been circulated on social media, showing a woman being assaulted in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The blurry, two-minute clip, which was allegedly filmed during Sunday's inaugural festivities, shows a woman completely naked and bruised with hordes of men around as she is carried into a vehicle.

Dozens of women say they have been attacked in Tahrir Square in the past two years but many said this was the worst they had heard of.

It has been covered widely by Egyptian media, with one newspaper demanding the perpetrators be executed.

In one of his first public statements, Mr Sisi called it an "unacceptable form of conduct, alien to the best principles of Egyptian culture".

It comes as a global summit to stop sexual violence in war zones, co-hosted by Angelina Jolie, continues in London.

On Tuesday, the actress told the summit: "We must send a message across the world that there's no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence. The shame is on the aggressor."

Part of the problem in Egypt has been an absence of laws protecting women against sexual harassment, allowing attackers to act with complete impunity.

A decree issued last week made it a criminal act for the first time, with offenders warned they could face up to five years in prison.

Importantly, it defines harassment as including the making of obscene gestures "in any manner", recognising it does not have to be of a physical nature.

A study conducted last year by the UN showed 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced some form of harassment, with around half (47%) claiming they are harassed daily.

It has become so prevalent and widespread in Egypt that many women have simply grown to accept it.

Men often stare and shout obscene comments at women as they walk along the street.

At times, it is seen as acceptable for women to feel shame and humiliation, as if something about how they dress or walk is to blame. 

It is an endemic problem and has become part of Egyptian culture - a dysfunctional yet accepted norm.

Farah Shash, of the Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, said: "The culture here when it comes to sexual harassment is to blame the victim."

She said authorities in Egypt have never seen women's rights as a priority and women are reluctant to report incidents because the police are so unsympathetic.

Journalist Hania Moheeb, who was gang raped in Tahrir Square last January and is attending this week's summit, said: "The denial this society has been living in for over two decades is something that has to end."

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