Egypt: Accountability for sexual violence, participation of WHRDs should be a priority


Protection gaps and implementation challenges with respect to Egypt's National Strategy for the Elimination of Violence against Women demonstrate that involving women human rights defenders in policy processes, and protecting their safety and security as they engage, is crucial for success.

Source: Al Jazeera English

(Geneva/Cairo) - A new briefing paper produced by Nazra for Feminist Studies last week, and submitted to the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, highlights the failure of the Egyptian government to adequately address sexual violence in the public sphere, although a National Strategy to eliminate violence against women was published last year.

ISHR joins Nazra’s call for such ‘National Strategies’ - and indeed all policy initiatives to improve protection for women - to include substantive inputs from women human rights defenders and civil society organisations.  

The submission welcomes the potential opportunity provided by the National Strategy. However, it also highlights challenges, including ongoing gaps in the penal code, failures to ensure privacy for victims seeking justice, and lack of accountability for past sexual violence (by both state and non-state actors). It also highlights the need to institutionalise the resourcing of, and participation by, civil society organisations in budgeting, implementing, and monitoring of the National Strategy.

Says Sarah M. Brooks, ISHR Focal Point on women human rights defenders, ‘The Working Group on Discrimination against Women will launch a report in June that documents discrimination in law and practice with regard to women’s health and safety. This submission makes clear that restrictions in law and practice on women defenders' participation in the public sphere to advocate for policy change can have deleterious effects on both the process and the outcomes of government efforts to ensure health and safety, and to combat sexual violence.'

Nazra's submission goes on to highlight cases that illustrate how safety in the workplace and other public spaces is severely compromised for many women in Egypt, regardless of their occupation - activists, as well as teachers and students. 

'For women human rights defenders in some countries, the pervasive threat of sexual violence, and the systemic shortcomings in its effective remedy, is a huge factor in both their mental health and their physical safety,' says Ms Brooks. 

International organisations, the submission continues, must focus attention to these issues, in Egypt as well as many other countries around the world. They also have a role to play in sharing knowledge, strategies and tactics for seeking reform and accountability with local organisations working to promote and protect women’s human rights.

For more information, contact Sarah M. Brooks at s.brooks[at] or check out the work of Nazra for Feminist Studies at



  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Women's rights and WHRD
  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
  • Egypt