Page last updated at 20:28 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 21:28 UK

Egyptian sexual harasser jailed

Noha Ostadh
Ms Ostadh fought back and then went public about her ordeal

An Egyptian man has been jailed for three years with hard labour for sexual harassment of a woman in the street.

Sharif Gommaa was also ordered to pay 5,001 Egyptian pounds ($895) damages to Noha Rushdi Saleh for the attack in Cairo's Heliopolis district.

Women's rights activists welcomed the ruling saying it was the first known case of prison for such an offence.

The defendant was accused of repeatedly groping Noha Rushdi Saleh as he drove slowly alongside her in his car.

Although many Egyptian women and visiting foreigners complain of unwanted sexual advances in Egyptian streets, the subject is rarely addressed by the authorities or mainstream media.

After an hour-long tussle she dragged her attacker to a police station

However, this attack in June became the focus of media coverage after the 27-year-old filmmaker, also known as Noha Ostadh, went public about her ordeal.

She told the BBC how shocked she had been at her attacker's behaviour, and also at the attitude of passers-by who told her not to go to the police - while others blamed her for provoking the attack.

After an hour-long tussle in which she dragged Gomaa to a police station, she says the police officers initially refused to open an investigation.

Cairo street scene
Women regularly face harassment on the streets of Egyptian cities
The case was taken up by the Badeel opposition daily, which blamed Egypt's oppressive government, and "the majority of citizens who identified with the oppressor", and "decades of incitement against women" in some mosques.


Egyptian women's rights campaigners have praised the judge for handing down what is being seen as a harsh, exemplary sentence.

Engy Ghozlan, of the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights, told AFP news agency: "This is the first case we know of where someone was jailed for groping.

"The judge was obviously setting an example."

The organisation released a survey this year that showed 98% of foreign women and 83% of Egyptian women had experienced sexual harassment. Nearly two-thirds of men admitted harassing women in public.

But very few reported cases because of a "total lack of confidence in the police and judicial systems", Engy Ghozlan said.

In an unusual development earlier in October, eight men were arrested in Cairo for allegedly taking part in a mob-style sexual attack on women pedestrians.

The attack, during the Eid holiday, was reminiscent of an incident in 2006 during the same holiday which marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

On both occasions, witnesses reported that police officers were present but did nothing to protect women who were violently groped and had some of their clothing torn off.

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