Geneva- The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor expressed its deep shock at the spread of the mounting sexual violence against African refugee women in Cairo in the recent months as the economic crisis has intensified in the country where about 100 million people live.
Reports from Egypt indicate that complaints of violent sexual assaults against African refugee women have jumped from two to seven per week.
As the economic crisis has intensified this year in Egypt, many African refugee women lost their jobs. They were unable to pay their rent and went to live with strangers which made them more vulnerable to sexual assaults.
Earlier this month, five women from Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia revealed that they had been sexually abused during their stay in the Egyptian capital.
One of the victims, a 17-year-old South Sudanese girl, told Reuters that she was snatched by strangers in a slum and brought by a taxi to another area, where one of them locked her up in an apartment for three months and repeatedly gang-raped her. When she escaped, she found out that she was three-month-pregnant.
The United Nations estimates that about half a million migrants, half of them are refugees, live in Cairo. Egypt has no statistics on sexual assaults against African refugee women.
“Sexual assault and rape are full-fledged crimes and require immediate action to stop them by all means, to prosecute the perpetrators, and provide health and psychological care for the victims,” said Mohammed Imad, Euro-Med’s legal researcher.
Imad added that the horrific reports from Cairo about mass rapes against refugee women are shocking and horrific.
The majority of rape laws in Arab countries include provisions that exempt the rapist from prosecution if he marries the victim, so the law turns into an additional punishment tool rather than protecting the victim. The Egyptian Criminal Code was proactive to repeal Articles 290-291 on the exemption from punishment if the abuser marries the victim since 1999.
However, Article 17 of the Egyptian Penal Code contains a serious problem when it comes rape crimes, because it gives the judge the power to use amnesty, if the circumstances of the crime requires public action by the judges, which leads to further injustice.
According to an international perception poll carried out in 2017, Cairo ranked as the most dangerous megacity for women in the world.
The Euro-Med stressed that the Egyptian state should make efforts to combat rape and any form of sexual violence and criminalize it in the Egyptian law, whether against Egyptian citizens or refugee women of different nationalities, in line with its commitment to respect the international humanitarian law.
The survivors of these incidents suffer daily from the psychological, physical and social effects, especially they have no families to protect them. In addition, they are aware that the abusers are still free and that they might be re-assaulted again.
The Euro-Med called on the Egyptian government to redress African refugee women by punishing perpetrators of rape and sexual violence, and to provide support to survivors who suffer from psychological and physical damage, including HIV.