Sexual violence is used widespread as a “weapon of repression” against dissidents by Egyptian security forces, a new human rights report reveals.
The International Federation for Human Rights, or FIDH, released a report Tuesday exposing a surge in sexual violence since the military took over in 2013 after a coup overthrew then Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi following mass protests demanding his downfall.
The use of sexual violence is not new to Egypt, but since 2013, the report claims, it “indiscriminately targets those apprehended by the security forces: in addition to opponents of General (Abdel-Fattah) el-Sissi’s regime, victims include NGO representatives, protesters, individuals perceived as going against the moral order, as well as common-law detainees.”
“The scale of sexual violence occurring during arrests and in detention, the similarities in the methods used and the general impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators point to a cynical political strategy aimed at stifling civil society and silencing all opposition,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
The use of sexual violence to repress female protesters and delegitimize protests generally, gained international spotlight during the summer of 2013 when a high number of women were victims of mob sexual assaults during demonstrations seeking to topple then-president Morsi. This surge in sexual violence led to the emergence of grassroots organizations defending women’s bodies and their right to public space, widespread media attention and condemnation from international human rights organizations.
Public pressure led to the criminalization of sexual assault and the trial of seven men for their perpetrating a mob-sexual assault on Tahrir Square during the inauguration of President el-Sisi in 2014. However, human rights organizations say no one has since been held accountable for acts of sexual violence, making its perpetrators — particularly Egyptian security forces — immune to prosecution. This “general climate of impunity fosters and fuels further violence by state actors and civilians,” the report stated.
Among the documented forms of sexual violence inflicted on civilians, FIDH found the use of sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, anal and vaginal “virginity tests”, electrocution of genitalia, sex-based defamation and blackmail.
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