The Egyptian government has begun cracking down on sexual abuse in the country, issuing seven men sentences of life in prison for sexual assault charges that took place during the protests and rallies in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The suspects were brought to the attention of the new government after videos depicting the assaults were posted online. According to the Huffington Post, 13 suspects were sent to trial only a week after the videos were posted in the government’s effort to emphasize how it is taking allegations of sexual abuse more seriously.
As the New York Times reports, newly elected president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi visited the victim of one such attack during his third day in office, as the woman was stripped and beaten during his inauguration ceremony.
Of the 13 suspects, seven were sentenced to life in prison, one received two 20-year sentences and another was given one 20-year sentence. The two men sentenced to 20 years in prison also must pay financial compensation and face surveillance for five years upon their release.
Sexual harassment only recently became criminalized in the country, with sentences ranging from six months to five years in prison. The sentence issued to the seven men in this case were harsher due to the escalated violence that occurred.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, more than 250 documented cases of attacks against women were recorded in Tahrir Square during the period of political turmoil between November 2012 and January 2014, leading to increased support in the country for harsher laws to be enacted. This sentencing marks the first major instance in which men have been imprisoned under the new government for crimes of sexual abuse.