Female Coptic Employees Request Protection From Sexual Harassment, Verbal and Physical Abuse

Thirty-five female Coptic Christian employees in Upper Egypt have asked for protection against sexual harassment, saying they have been verbally and physically abused. The women work in the financial department of the Nag Hammadi Education Administration in Qena.

The Coptic women have submitted complaints to the Administrative Prosecution, Governor of Qena, and the undersecretary of the Ministry of Education asking to be transferred back to the headquarters in the Education Administration building because they are sexually harassed in their current temporary place of work in the agricultural secondary school, located on the Cairo-Aswan western agricultural road.

One of the employees, who refused to give her name, told MCN that the school's students verbally and physically harass the Coptic female employees every day, and sometimes beat them. Employees face troubles daily while on the way to and from work when students behave indecently with them.

"My colleagues and I are exposed to offensive situations on a daily basis," said the Coptic employee. "One of my colleagues was injured when two students attacked her. Another was shocked when she saw a student take off his pants in front of her while she was going up stairs and when she cried for help, the students fled."

Another employee reported that their male colleagues wait for them in front of the school door to protect them from harassment by students, because they are older women who are unable to face the students.

Human rights activist Barakat el-Damarany, member of Himaya Center for Human Rights Advocates, condemned violations against Coptic employees, blaming insecurity for the situation. Damarany called on officials to urgently respond to the complaints made by these employees and protect them from such violations.

Sexual harassment is an ongoing problem in Egypt, escalating drastically for the past few decades, which has led to Egypt being placed in the No. 2 spot in the world after Afghanistan.

Campaigners in Egypt recently described the problem of sexual harassment as an "epidemic" to BBC. One of the greatest obstacles in fighting harassment and abuse is that it is difficult and criticized for women to take legal action against their assailants.